Caution: You may faint upon reading the next sentence so consider yourself warned.
Much maligned point guards Jeremie Simmons and P.J. Hill combined for 27 points on 10/17 shooting as Ohio State stopped a three game skid with a 73-59 victory over Penn State tonight in the Schott.
The win moved Ohio State into a four way tie for fourth place in the Big Ten, improving OSU to 8-7 in conference and 18-8 overall.
It looked like the Buckeyes might have an easy night jumping out to a 19-2 lead during a seven minute stretch in which they held the Lions scoreless in mostly man to man defense (or a triangle and two) but Penn State would respond with a 21-3 blitz of their own, against what seemed like mostly zone to reclaim the lead at 23-22.
Giving props to Hill, he camped out in Talor Battle's shorts during the 19-2 run in addition to scoring five points in what was his first start of the year while Simmons came out cold.
Sensing the need to do something, Simmons stepped up toward the end of the half with a nifty drive and a three at right before the buzzer putting OSU in front 32-30 at intermission.
The combined first half contributions from Hill and Simmons (10 pts, 4/8 FG) along with 11 points from Wil Buford helped offset a scoreless half from Evan Turner who simply couldn't create any space to get his shot against the bigger, more physical Jamelle Cornley.
I might be on the hippie lettuce but I think Matta sensed the same thing and subsequently kept two bigs on the floor together much of the second half to take advantage of other match ups with Turner serving as a key distributor.
Turner would finish with a career high eight assists, five in the second half, though the final 20 minutes didn't start well as Penn State went on a modest 16-9 run to take a 46-41 lead at the 12:40 mark. Enter Simmons.
The guy who lost his starting job after shooting just 2/13 during the three game losing streak ignited a 23-6 run with three triples while B.J. Mullens added eight points providing OSU a decisive 64-52 cushion with 3:29 left.
The stellar efforts from Hill (13 pts, 5/8 FG, 2 asst, 1 TO) and Simmons (14 pts, 5/9 FG, 2 reb, 1 asst) weren't the only bright spots as Kyle Madsen also deserves some props for 18 solid minutes. Madsen battled down low grabbing four boards and tipping a few other boards to teammates while scoring four points.
Mullens also showed up tonight posting 13 points (5/7 FG)and five boards with four coming on the offensive glass. On the other hand, Invisidale was, well, Invisidale with three points and two boards in 15 minutes.
Jon Diebler finished with nine points overall and five boards in the second half while Wil Buford once again showed up in the first half (11 pts, 5/10 FG) only to disappear in the second going 0/1 in very limited action. It looked like Buford got yanked for another lost rotation early and never came back in the game as Matta shifted to a bigger lineup.
Looking at the final numbers, the Buckeyes got back to form hitting 52% from the floor while the man/zone combo held PSU to 43%. Ohio State also posted a 29-23 edge on the glass and after checking the box score about ten times, they also turned it over just SIX times.
Obviously, this game was correctly hyped as a must-win and the Buckeyes responded. Now, they take the show on the road to face arguably the second best team in the conference in West Lafayette.
I don't forsee an upset but I like the fact the game will be much more important to Ohio State than Purdue.
Jeremie Simmons and P.J. Freaking Hill...I still can't believe what I just witnessed.