COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State remains winless in the month of February, losing 14 out of their last 15 games and their ninth in a row.
It was a physical and gritty game that featured better and more consistent stretches of play for Ohio State. The Buckeyes played the best they have in the eight game stretch but fell short in a 75-71 loss to Penn State at home on Thursday night.
Ohio State had five 3-point attempts on its last possession as time expired when they were down four — Sean McNeil, Bruce Thornton, McNeil, Brice Sensabaugh, and McNeil. One after the other, five offensive rebounds and last chance attempts weren’t enough despite getting four good looks out of the five.
Ohio State went on a 8-0 run to take a 57-55 with 11:28 left to play but then went scoreless for over two minutes as Penn State re-gained the lead. McNeil then hit his first 3 of the night to give Ohio State a 60-59 lead and Likekele hit a deep 3 as the shot clock expired. Penn State’s Jalen Pickett followed up with a 3 of his own and Thornton responded with a jumper.
It was back and forth through most of the second half and Ohio State never held a lead for long. Each time Ohio State took a lead, Penn State hit a shot right after.
Pickett took over the last five minutes of the game and scored Penn State’s last 14 points. Coming out of the under-6 media timeout, Penn State got nine straight points from Pickett and Ohio State missed its next six shots before Sensabaugh ended the drought, but the Buckeyes only trailed by three.
Thornton made a layup and the Buckeyes trailed 70-69 with one minute to play and Penn State ball. Sensabaugh fouled Pickett who made one, giving The Nittany Lions a 73-69 lead. Suing hit a jumper and Pickett responded with two more free throws to make it a 75-71 lead and one more chance for Ohio State. On five attempts, Ohio State came up short.
Pickett, who leads Penn State in scoring with 18.6 points per game, was limited early on after picking up two fouls. He sat on the bench and didn’t attempt his first shot until 7:13 was left in the first half, playing for only nine minutes in the first 20. He scored 73 points combined in his last two games for the Nittany Lions and had a quiet first half, but made his presence felt in the last seven minutes. He scored 23 points, shooting 8-for-11 and 2-for-2 from 3, with five made free throws.
In their first and only meeting of the season, both Ohio State and Penn State were shooting well and moving the ball effectively. On the other side of the ball, there was little defensive effort from both teams. For Ohio State, it came down to not getting stops.
Neither team scored in the last two minutes of the first half and both teams were tied at 37 at halftime. It was the first time Ohio State had not been trailing at the break since the win against Iowa on Jan. 21 — the teams’ most recent win outside of Thursday.
Penn State, the Big Ten’s best 3-point shooting team knocked 3-4 early on to take an 11-8 early lead. The Nittany Lions scored on their first four possessions.
Sensabaugh scored seven of Ohio State’s first 10 points through 4:30 of play. Both true freshmen Sensabaugh and Thornton combined for 24 of Ohio State’s 37 first-half points. Sensabaugh was relentless getting to his spots and reached 11 points before even missing a shot.
Sensabaugh was sensational and pounded it out with Penn State’s Seth Lundy. Both players led their teams with 14 points at the half and delivered an impressive first half of basketball. Lundy ended up playing a monster game for the Nittany Lions and added 19 points, was 5-for-9 from the paint and 4-for-8 from behind the arc. Starting guard Camren Wynter contributed 18 points and was the third Nittany Lion in double-figures.
Thornton also contributed 19 points for the Buckeyes and was 7-for 12 from the paint, and 3-of-7 from 3.
Without Zed Key, Ohio State had to rely on freshman center Felix Okpara who has made an impact with 30 blocks on the season. He gave the Buckeyes the size they needed and stuck to his spots, giving some offensive flashes on alley oop dunks. He contributed eight points.
McNeil had been a consistent shooter from behind the art for the Buckeyes with five games with three 3-pointers made this season, but he struggled shooting from distance on Thursday night. McNeil was 0-4 from 3 at halftime and finished just 1-of-8.
The Buckeyes took care of the ball and finished the game with only one turnover, the lowest since 2019, that came when Thornton was double-teamed and it was stripped from him.
Photo via Ohio State Hoops Twitter.