Penn State never makes it easy.
Tony Carr's name still makes the hairs on the back of Chris Holtmann's neck stand up. The Bryce Jordan Center hasn't been a friend of Ohio State's of late. The Nittany Lions were up by eight in the second half of the first game between these two teams three weeks ago. For whatever reason, they never make it easy on the Buckeyes, and it was no different on Thursday.
|#4 OHIO STATE||47||45||92|
Ohio State exited halftime with a four-point advantage, but by the sixth minute of the second half it was looking at a 59-51 deficit. A subsequent 15-0 run that included six Duane Washington Jr. points and four points from CJ Walker put the Buckeyes back on top, 69-61, with 9:40 remaining and they managed to squeeze out a 92-82 victory.
The nation's No. 4 team improved to 18-4 overall and 12-4 within the Big Ten, avoiding what would have been a brutal loss just three days before a top-five home matchup with Michigan.
Penn State, despite going more than seven minutes in the middle of the second half without a field goal, managed to hang around to keep it competitive late. Seven made free throws and an Izaiah Brockington layup chopped the Buckeyes' lead to 74-70 with 7:03 remaining. An E.J. Liddell triple later extended his team's edge to nine points, but Myles Dread responded with a 3 of his own to make it 85-79 with 1:19 left. It never got any closer than that, though.
In a game with no shortage of points, E.J. Liddell led the Buckeyes with 23 points despite battling foul trouble and picking up his third foul with 17:19 left and fourth foul with 7:18 remaining. Washington (21 points) and Walker (13 points) helped him in a big way. Liddell and Washington scored 42 combined points on 21 combined shots.
|OHIO STATE||STAT||PENN STATE|
|30-53 (56.6%)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||27-60 (45.0%)|
|11-20 (55.0%)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||12-28 (42.9%)|
|21-26 (80.8%)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||16-21 (76.2%)|
The Buckeyes shot a ridiculous 56.6 percent from the field and made 11-of-20 3s. The Nittany Lions managed a 45.6 shooting percentage, going 12-for-27 from 3-point range.
Much like the first Ohio State-Penn State game several weeks ago, the Buckeyes controlled the vast majority of the first half.
They got out to a 9-2 lead with back-to-back-to-back 3 from Washington, Justin Ahrens and E.J. Liddell going through the net, and after trailing for 19 seconds before then, didn't fall behind the Nittany Lions the remainder of the half. A 6-0 run extended Ohio State's lead all the way to 10 points with a Walker bucket a little under eight minutes into the game. A 9-0 Penn State run that featured a trio of made 3s and ended with a displeased Chris Holtmann calling a timeout tied the game at 31 points apiece with 5:43 left in the opening half. Ohio State managed to go up, 47-43, as the first half came to a close with Ahrens draining a triple as time expired.
The final triple was emblematic of the first half: A lot of good looks and a lot of makes – for both teams. The Buckeyes managed 1.516 points per possession in the first half, and the Nittany Lions scored 1.387 points per possession. Both marks were higher than what either team had recorded in any prior single game this season.
Next up: Ohio State goes back to Columbus for a massive home matchup with No. 3 Michigan on Sunday. The game tips off at 1 p.m. Sunday.
- Chris Holtmann has hinted he'll continue to use CJ Walker off the bench. That remained the case on Thursday with the head coach using the same starting five he has gone with since mid-January: Duane Washington Jr., Justin Ahrens, Justice Sueing, Kyle Young and E.J. Liddell.
- The Buckeyes entered the game as five-point betting favorites to beat the Nittany Lions.
- Ohio State entered the day with a 37-18 all-time record versus Penn State and an 11-8 mark at the Bryce Jordan Center.
- This was the second of two regular-season meetings between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions. However, they could still meet a third time in the Big Ten tournament depending on how the field shakes out. Currently, Ohio State is scheduled for a double-bye while Penn State came into the day needing two wins to even make it to the quarterfinals where it might get a chance for a third game against the Buckeyes.