Penn State shot well at the beginning and defended well at the end.
It was a long, ugly stretch in the middle that doomed the Nittany Lions (8-12, 0-8) as they fell to No. 14 Ohio State (15-4, 5-2) 65-51 Saturday afternoon at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Nittany Lions held a few leads early on and found themselves tied at 11 six minutes into the game, but things went downhill from there. The shots stopped falling, and the Buckeyes embarked on an 8-0 run holding the Nittany Lions scoreless for another six minutes of play.
The Buckeyes would also go cold towards the end of the first half, but the Nittany Lions failed to capitalize, even air-balling a few shots. After beginning the contest shooting 4-6 from the field, Pat Chambers’ squad shot 3-18 for the rest of the half and went to the locker room trailing 29-18.
The second half saw improved offensive play, but Penn State was never able to make enough key stops or convert enough baskets to truly make a run despite hanging around. A layup by D.J. Newbill and a three point shot from Brandon Taylor cut the Ohio State lead to single digits, but it was quickly extended back to 13 and remained in double digits there the rest of the way.
Newbill had a quiet first half but finished the contest with 15 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and only 1 turnover. Jermaine Marshall led Penn State and tied Ohio State’s Sam Thompson with a game-high 16 points, but the contributions from the two guards alone were not enough to pull off the upset victory.
“I feel like we’re close, if we could just get a third scorer,” said head coach Pat Chambers following the game. Sasa Borovnjak added 9 points of his own, but finding consistent points outside of Newbill and Marshall has been a problem since Tim Frazier went down with a season ending achilles injury. The issue was magnified today when Ross Travis went scoreless and Brandon Taylor only added 3 points on 1-8 shooting.
Ohio State forward DeShaun Thomas was held to 11 points on 4-13 shooting, well below his season average of 20.5, but others including Thompson and Lenzelle Smith Jr. stepped up in a balanced effort for the Buckeyes that saw them shoot 21-48 from the field and 19-23 from the free throw line compared to Penn State’s 13-22 from the charity stripe.
Buckeyes head coach Thad Matta, who has never lost to Penn State since taking the job in 2004, offered praise in the direction of the Nittany Lions and their head coach. “Pat is doing an incredible job. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten.”
With eight straight losses to begin conference play and six of them by more than 10 points, the Nittany Lions are far from that right now but remain in high spirits. “Despite our record, I wouldn’t want to be at any other school in there country. We’re still a family and working hard,” said Newbill, who has held his own against some of the better point guards in the Big Ten recently including Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Ohio State’s Aaron Craft.
“We’re getting better. You might not see it, but I see it. Hopefully we see the results real soon,” said Chambers.
The next opportunity is Thursday night at Iowa with tipoff set for 8 p.m.