Ohio State Sees An 18-Point Second-Half Lead Evaporate As Buckeyes Fall to Penn State, 83-80

By Andy Anders on December 9, 2023 at 8:32 pm

It took exactly 8:40 for Ohio State's 18-point second-half lead to evaporate down to 1.

Following a strong first 25 minutes or so, the Buckeyes gave up 54 second-half points to Penn State. A complete reversal of fortunes saw the Nittany Lions go from shooting 2-of-9 from 3 in the first half to 8-of-15 in the second and from 34.4% from the field to 60.6%.

A 25-9 run took the Ohio State edge from 55-37 to 64-62 with less than eight minutes to play. Penn State forward Leo O'Boyle's fourth 3 in five attempts tied things at 74-74 with 2:33 remaining.

Ace Baldwin Jr. gave Penn State its first lead since it was up 17-16 in the first half at 79-76 with 32 seconds to go, nailing a long 3.

OHIO STATE 42 38 80
PENN STATE 29 54 83

Finally, a pair of free throws from center Qudus Wahab sealed it for Penn State (5-5, 1-1 Big Ten) off a missed corner triple from Jamison Battle.

The Nittany Lions carried what was then an 82-78 lead with seven seconds left to an 83-80 win on Saturday over Ohio State (8-2, 1-1), snapping the Buckeyes' seven-game winning streak.

It was the first road game of Ohio State's 2023-24 season. It's safe to say that it ended in disaster.

Guard Kanye Clary paced Penn State, collecting 19 points. Fellow guard D'Marco Dunn followed with 16 points – despite averaging just 4.3 per game entering the contest – while O'Boyle picked up 15.

Bruce Thornton led the charge in a losing effort for the Buckeyes, scoring 17 points with four assists. Jamison Battle followed with 13 points, while Zed Key picked up 12 and Roddy Gayle Jr. got 11. Eight of Gayle's points came in the second half.

Ohio State turned the ball over 16 times to help fuel Penn State's comeback.

First half

There wasn't a feeling-out process involved with Saturday's contest.

Bruce Thornton and Jamison Battle each hit an open triple to give Ohio State an early 8-2 lead, then Battle hit another 3 less than a minute later to make it 11-4. Evan Mahaffey sank a baby hook out of the post against his former team before blocking what looked to be an open transition slam for Penn State's Puff Johnson.

Five early points from Clary then helped narrow the margin to 13-9. All of that happened before the game's first media timeout.

Six consecutive points from O'Boyle gave the Nittany Lions their first lead of the contest at 17-16, but then the Buckeyes' bench got to work.

Zed Key flexed a few nice moves in the post against O'Boyle to slam home a dunk. Freshman Scotty Middleton announced his presence with a 3 out of the right corner off a lasered bounce pass from Thornton in the lane. When O'Boyle answered with a 3 of his own, Middleton opened himself up for a mid-range jumper off a nice pump fake and dribble move. A free throw from Key pushed Ohio State's edge back to two scores at 24-20.

The team's starters then worked to extend it. Thornton found Felix Okpara for an alley-oop slam then finished a fantastic and-one layup and the ensuing free throw to make it 31-22 Ohio State. A kick out from the post by Key to an open Middleton for 3 pushed the edge to double-digits at 34-24.

Relative to how it started, the last four minutes of the half cooled down drastically, with four total points scored in the sequence, all by Ohio State. Neither team scored during the final 100 seconds.

Penn State's shooting emerged as a blatant issue during this stretch. The Nittany Lions made just 34.4% of their shots in the first half, including a 2-for-9 mark from 3 after five straight misses from the outside to close the period.

The Buckeyes led 41-29 at intermission, shooting 53.6%. Even larger than their shooting advantage over Penn State was their edge on the glass, which stood at 26-12. Turnovers were the main thing holding them back, with nine in the first 20 minutes.

Oh, how different those numbers looked after another 20 minutes.

Second half

80 POINTS 83
27-60 (45%) FGM-FGA (PCT.) 31-65 (47.7%)
11-26 (42.3%) 3PM-3PA (PCT.) 10-24 (41.7%)
15-22 (68.2%) FTM-FTA (PCT.) 11-19 (57.9%)

The first segment of the second half was more of the same from Ohio State.

Thornton came out of the break and hit a free throw followed by a triple on a later possession, Okpara slammed home another alley-oop, this one fed to him by Battle, and Battle hit a corner shot from distance that gave the Buckeyes their largest lead of the contest at 55-37.

But then Penn State started making some plays.

Clary got going toward the basket, finishing a layup strong then drawing the Buckeye defense in on the following possession to kick to an open Dunn for three. O'Boyle worked himself open and nailed a triple of his own.

Thornton tried to stop the bleeding with a triple, which was followed by a Key dunk, but two 3s from Zach Hicks made it a 64-59 ballgame.

Then another Dunn triple cut it all the way down to 64-62. Suddenly, with 7:23 still to play, Ohio State was in a Big Ten battle on the road.

Everything that went right in the first half was going wrong. Penn State had just capped a stretch of shooting 6-of-7 from 3. It went from being doubled-up on the glass by Ohio State in the first half to winning the rebounding battle 19-17 in the second.

A triple by Gayle and four combined free throws from he and Thornton made it a 72-66 lead for Ohio State with 4:30 to play. But the onslaught of Clark and the Nittany Lions continued.

Clary scored five points in a row before O'Boyle hit his game-tying 3, catalyzing the game-clinching final few minutes from Penn State mentioned above.

All told, Penn State outscored Ohio State 46-25 after the Buckeyes pushed their lead to 18 with 15:31 to play.

What's next

Ohio State gets a week off before taking on UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic on Dec. 16. The Buckeyes and Bruins will meet on a neutral court, that being State Farm Arena in Atlanta, home to the Atlanta Hawks. Tip-off is at 3 p.m. on CBS.

Game notes

  • Freshman forward Devin Royal did not play against Penn State after seeing frequent usage in the Buckeyes' first nine games this season.
  • Penn State scored 14 of its 16 second-chance points in the second half.
  • This loss likely pushes Ohio State out of its No. 25 ranking in the Coaches Poll and eliminates much of the chance it had to be ranked in this week's AP poll.
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