COLUMBUS — No. 16 Ohio State (14-4, 5-2 Big Ten) defeated Penn State (8-7, 3-4 Big Ten) 61-56 at home on Sunday in a hard fought defensive showing where the Buckeyes led by as many as 10 points but Penn State kept fighting up until the final whistle.
With the 61-56 win on Sunday, the Buckeyes sweep the season series with the Nittany Lions for the second consecutive season.
Ohio State’s cold shooting and a consistent defensive presence from the Nittany Lions allowed Penn State to chip away at the Buckeyes’ double-digit lead. With 3:50 to play it was a four-point game as Ohio State couldn’t pull away and Penn State continued hanging around, stringing together shots.
With 0:37 remaining and Ohio State out of timeouts, senior guard Jamari Wheeler knocked down two free throws to make it a 58-51 game, putting the Buckeyes back up by seven. Wheeler was fouled again and made another clutch free throw, giving the Buckeyes a nine-point lead. Penn State battled back and hit a 3 sending the Nittany Lions to a timeout with 60-56 and 0:07 left in the game. The Nittany Lions then fouled senior forward Kyle Young who hit one and sealed the deal for Ohio State as the time expired.
Penn State came in with momentum winning three of its last four games and executed well early on. It took the initial lead scoring 10 points within the first five minutes. But after hitting four of its first nine shots, the Nittany Lions went 5-of-20 throughout the first half of play. Solid defense from the Buckeyes, blocked shots, and a 19-4 scoring run gave Ohio State control over the game — control that Penn State never got back.
Penn State was without its leading scorer Seth Lundy (14.1 points/game), who is also second on the team in rebounds and third in minutes played. Without Lundy, it was a tall task for the Nittany Lions to find their offense. Senior guard Sam Sessoms ultimately led scoring for Penn State with 15 points, shooting 6-of-12 from the paint and 2-of-4 from 3, but even when Penn State found open shots, it was a challenge to make them. At halftime, Penn State was just 8-of-27 from the floor.
Neither team shot particularly well and both teams traded multiple scoring lulls. Ohio State went the final 5:52 minutes of the first half without a field goal, shooting 22.2% from 3 but still held the 27-22 halftime lead. Penn State finished the game shooting 40% from inside the paint and 27% from 3 as compared to Ohio State’s 39% from the paint and 25% from behind the arc.
The Buckeyes won the first meeting this season 76-64 on Dec. 5 in State College. But in that game, it was Ohio State’s 12 made 3-point shots that made the difference. A focus for Penn State’s head coach Micah Shrewsberry coming into the game was to limit the Buckeyes’ shooting from behind the arc. His team successfully accomplished that on Sunday, with Ohio State only making three 3-pointers.
Although free throws secured the win for Ohio State, neither team was very effective from the free throw line. The Buckeyes made 24 of 36 attempts, while Penn State made eight of 14 shots from the line.
Turnovers, however, were a bright spot for both teams, with only 19 total between the two, 10 for Penn State and 9 coming from Ohio State. The Buckeyes also won the rebounding battle, grabbing 37 total rebounds as compared to Penn State’s 30.
Junior forward E. J. Liddell was excellent in drawing 10 fouls from Penn State, but he was also present for Ohio State offensively. Liddell led all scorers with 19 points, shooting 6-of-11 from the paint, 1-of-2 from 3, and 6-of-12 from the free throw line. He added eight rebounds and three assists.
Sophomore forward Zed Key missed time getting his foot/ankle evaluated in the locker room, but came back and gave the Buckeyes a solid 10 points and four rebounds.
Penn State had the chance to make it a one-possession game late in the second half, but Young poked the ball free, landed on it, and called a timeout. His efforts along with seven rebounds, and two steals made a big difference in the Buckeyes’ win.
Ohio State was one again without Meechie Johnson, Seth Towns, and Justice Sueing.
Up next, the Buckeyes face the IUPUI Jaguars at home on Tuesday at 7:00 pm.
Photo via Ohio State Hoops Twitter