The unpredictability of the Big Ten strikes again. However, for Ohio State it was a familiar tale.
One month after the low point of the Thad Matta era arrived via a loss to Penn State, the Nittany Lions one-upped themselves. They delivered a fatal blow to the Buckeyes’ hopes of a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament, securing a season sweep with a 65-63 win on Senior Night in State College.
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No. 22 Ohio State (22-7, 9-7 Big Ten) had not only won six of seven games since reaching rock bottom in a loss to Penn State (14-14, 5-10) Jan. 29; the Buckeyes declared themselves a changed team. They were better prepared, understood the stakes and displayed a sense of togetherness. But much was the same in their second loss to the Nittany Lions.
An 11-point lead was squandered late January. An 11-point lead was squandered Wednesday. Lenzelle Smith Jr. had two opportunities to win the game in the final 10 seconds, but misfired on two relatively clean looks. Ohio State trailed by five with 54 seconds left and nearly capped a furious rally with an unlikely win.
Penn State secured its first lead of the night with 15:16 left in the game. The Buckeyes never regained the lead.
LaQuinton Ross led Ohio State’s scoring effort with 19 points. Nine Buckeyes scored, but only Ross and Aaron Craft (10) reached double figures. Sam Thompson, who entered the game averaging 15 points in his last two outings, scored eight points on 3-of-10 shooting. The Buckeyes shot 42.6 percent from the field.
Ohio State was outrebounded 34-25 and allowed 15 second-chance points. Penn State was 22 of 28 from the free throw line compared to the Buckeyes’ 18 of 27 performance. The game featured 48 fouls and 55 free throws.
D.J. Newbill, the hero in January’s win after scoring 25 points and the game winner, recorded 23 points.
Ohio State roared out to a 10-2 lead in the first half, connecting on its first four shots. The lead eventually grew to 11 before Penn State went on a late run in the first half. Foul trouble was the culprit, as Craft sat the final 10:44 of the half with two fouls. The Buckeyes didn’t score the final three minutes, clenching to a two-point halftime lead.
It upped its advantage to seven early in the second half. Then the Nittany Lions outscored Ohio State by 12 points over the next 10 minutes and never relinquished their advantage. They were able to seize momentum when Amir Williams was called for his third foul.
Ohio State plays at Indiana Sunday.