Winners of seven straight, the Ohio State Buckeyes (8-2, 1-1) traveled to Happy Valley Saturday night looking to extend that winning streak to eight, as well as hand the Nittany Lions (5-5, 1-1) their sixth-straight loss. First-year head coach Mike Rhoades led the ‘Nits to a 4-0 record to start the season, but since then lost five in a row, with an average margin of defeat of 9.8 points.
Ohio State, on the other hand, had won each of its last seven games by double-digits. OSU had jumped up to No. 24 in KenPom leading into this game, while Penn State was the lowest-ranked Big Ten team at No. 122.
Chris Holtmann went with the same starting lineup he’s used all season long: sophomores Bruce Thornton, Roddy Gayle, Evan Mahaffey, and Felix Okpara, next to senior forward Jamison Battle. For Mahaffey, it was a homecoming to the school he was recruited to and played at his freshman year, before transferring to Ohio State this summer.
Penn State with a starting five of Kanye Clary, Ace Baldwin, Puff Johnson, Zach Hicks, and Qudus Wahab.
Ohio State led 23-20 by the under-12 timeout, with Zed Key, Scotty Middleton, and Battle all chipping in multiple early buckets. With Thornton tightly guarded by Ace Baldwin and Gayle on the bench with two early fouls, the Buckeyes’ bench came through with clutch early baskets to hold the Nittany Lions at arm’s length. Penn State, meanwhile, was being carried by Leo O’Boyle — a graduate transfer who was averaging 2.3 points per game before tonight’s contest. O’Boyle knocked down two triples — and was fouled on another — to rack up nine early points for Penn State.
The Buckeyes continued to stretch its lead out after Penn State briefly led by one point, holding a 30-22 lead by the under-eight media timeout. Key was impactful below the basket, Battle kept Penn State’s defense extended, and Middleton continued to make plays on both ends. It very much felt like a game where if the Nittany Lions went on a cold stretch for several minutes, Ohio State was going to run away with it. That never happened.
Despite Thornton and Gayle both spending time on the bench in the first half with two fouls apiece and comining for just nine first-half points, Ohio State still led 41-29 at halftime. The Buckeyes held Penn State to 34.4% shooting in the first half. There were no Buckeyes in double digits in the first half, but Key, Middleton, Okpara, and Battle all had multiple baskets in the first half to pick up the slack.
Thanks to an Evan Mahaffey turnover followed by yet another O’Boyle three-pointer, Penn State was able to get back within 10 points by the under-12 media timeout, 59-49. The Nittany Lions were outplaying Ohio State through the early stages of the second half, and were especially impactful with its help defense whenever a non-primary ballhandler began dribbling for the Buckeyes. Clary also turned out to be a big problem for Roddy Gayle, as he was able to get downhill off switches and either draw fouls or score at the bucket.
Penn State took advantage of a brief, three-minute scoreless spell by the Buckeyes and went on a 13-1 run, getting Penn State back within one point with 6:30 left in the game before a Gayle three-pointer pushed it back to four. The Nittany Lions were scorching the nets in the second half, knocking down six of their first eight three-pointers in the second stanza after going 2-for-9 in the first half. Penn State finished 2-for-9 from three in the first half, but wound up hitting 8-of-15 in the second half.
As if it was written in the stars, overnight hero Leo O’Boyle knocked own his fourth three-pointer of the game with 2:33 left in the game, tying things up at 74-all. The BJC was really rocking for the first time all afternoon. Two possesions later, Okpara missed a layup but was able to grab his own miss and drop it back in, putting the Buckeyes back up, 76-74 with 1:09 left to go.
After Baldwin tied things back up with one minute remaining, Okpara was called for a moving screen, giving Penn State a chance to take the lead. Baldwin did just that, knocking down a step-back three from the far wing to put Penn State back up, 79-76 with 32 seconds left on the clock.
After Hicks split a pair of free throws, Ohio State had the chance to win the game, but Battle’s three pointer rimmed out, and that was all she wrote. Penn State completed the comeback and snapped the Buckeyes’ winning streak, 83-80.
Clary led all scorers with 19 points on 7-of-17 shooting over 33 minutes. Dunn (16), O’Boyle (15), Hicks (11), and Wahab (10) all scored in double digits as well. Thornton led Ohio State with 17 points on 4-of-11 shooting, and knocked down 6-7 free throws. Battle (13), Key (12), and Gayle (11) all scored in double digits as well.
If you weren’t able to catch tonight’s road loss to the ‘Nits, here are a few of the key moments and plays that ultimately led to Ohio State’s winning streak being snapped in Happy Valley:
Buckeyes score on first four possessions of the game
Both teams were off and running in this one, with the Buckeyes playing at a 100-point pace over the first several minutes of the game. Ohio State scored on each of its first four possessions of the game, including a three-pointer from Thornton and two threes from Battle. Penn State hit five of its first nine shots as well, which meant that despite the Buckeyes’ knocking down some early shots, they weren’t able create any separation.
Gayle’s costly fouls
Sophomore guard Roddy Gayle spent a good chunk of the first half on the bench in foul trouble, picking up his first just three minutes into the game, tapping Clary on a made basket, which he then turned into a three-point play. After sitting for roughly three minutes, Gayle re-entered the game and fouled O’Boyle on a three-point attempt two minutes later, leading to three free points for the graduate transfer. Gayle went right back to the bech after the free throws.
Gayle would end the game with 11 points on 3-of-8 shooting in 27 minutes. He had four assists, three turnovers, and three rebounds.
(Say it like the line from Billy Madison)
Leo O’Boyle is a Pennsylvania native who transferred to Penn State this past summer after four years at Lafayette, where he averaged double digits in just one of his four seasons there. Throwing shade is not the intention here, but the facts are the facts.
Coming into this game, the 6-foot-7 forward was averaging 2.3 points per game over roughly 12 minutes per contest. In Saturday’s game, he had nine points over the first 10 minutes.
O’Boyle, a 21% three-point shooter to this point in the season, knocked down two three-pointers early on, and was fouled by Roddy Gayle on another. The crowd was getting into it too, begging him to shoot every time he touched the ball. O’Boyle was a big-time contibutor in the first half — if it weren’t for him, Ohio State might’ve wrapped this thing up before the halftime buzzer. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Quite the contrary....
Middleton showing flashes
Freshman guard/wing Scotty Middleton was showing up on draft boards before the season began, but that was before Mahaffey was somewhat surprisingly named a starter over him. The talent is clearly there, but the development may not be the same as a Malaki Branham or Brice Sensabaugh (Ohio State fans might love that, actually).
Middleton’s season-high in points was 13 against Oakland, and he also chipped in eight against Minnesota. The freshman had eight points in the first half alone against Penn State Saturday night, dropping in two three-pointers as well as a baseline jumper from about nine feet. Middleton also had a spectacular defensive play in the first half, jumping to block D’Marco Dunn’s three-point attempt in the corner before jumping to grab the loose ball and throwing it back in to Thornton to start the break.
He finished with nine points on 3-of-7 shooting over 16 minutes. He also had five rebounds and one block.
O’Boyle strikes again
With Ohio State leading 59-46 and 12:18 left in the game, Mahaffey was called for a travel, and on the ensuing Penn State possession that gosh-darn ginger-haired fellow knocked down his third three-pointer of the game, getting the ‘Nits back within 10 points for the first time since the 4:08 mark of the first half.
O’Boyle had four made three-pointers through the first nine games of the season. He had four on Saturday night.
Hicks cuts the deficit to just five
With the Buckeyes on a three-minute long scoreless streak, the Nittany Lions quickly put together an 8-0 run starting at the 10:22 mark to cut the lead from 17 points all the way down to five. With 8:38 left in the game, Hicks knocked down a three from the far wing — his second of the game — to make it 64-59, Ohio State.
Hicks — who transferred to Penn State from Temple — finished with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting over 29 minutes. He was 2-of-4 from three-point range.
O’Boyle (suprise!) ties it at 74
Overnight hero Leo O’Boyle knocked down a three from in front of the Penn State bench with 2:33 to go to tie things up, 74-74. The Nittany Lions were unconscious from downtown in the second half after struggling mightily from distance in the first half.
O’Boyle set his new high in points as a member of the Penn State men’s basketball program, scoring 15 points on 4-of-5 shooting (all from downtown) over 25 minutes. He also had four rebounds and one steal.
Baldwin puts the Nittany Lions ahead with 31 seconds to go
After he tied it at 76, Baldwin went back down on the very next possession and knocked down a step-back triple to put Penn State up, 79-76. It was Baldwin’s first three-point make on five attempts to that point.
After being held scoreless in the first half, Baldwin scored nine points in the second half, finishing with nine points on 4-of-11 shooting over 35 minutes. He also had five assists.
Ohio State (8-2, 1-1) now gets six days off before traveling to Atlanta, where it will take on UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic at State Farm Arena. The Bruins are 5-3 this season, having lost to Villanova on Saturday night while Ohio State was losing to Penn State. The Buckeyes lost to North Carolina in overtime at the CBS Sports Classic last season.
Ohio State’s game against UCLA will tip of at 3:00 p.m. on CBS.