Penn State men’s basketball (21-12, 9-9 Big Ten) is heading to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals for the first time since 2011 thanks to its third win of the season over the Ohio State Buckeyes, 69-68.
No. 13 Ohio State (24-8, 15-3 Big Ten) has an Achilles’ heel named Tony Carr. Penn State’s sophomore stud torched the Buckeyes once again as the Nittany Lions hope the resume booster puts them back in NCAA Tournament consideration.
How It Happened
Penn State opened up an eight-point lead in the first few minutes, but Ohio State started to pull the momentum midway through the first half. Thanks to a 20-6 run bolstered by four buckets from behind the arc, the Buckeyes appeared like they would grab a stranglehold on the first half.
The story of the stretch wasn’t that a single Buckeye shined, like Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop. It was a group effort. All eight players that stepped on the floor for Ohio State scored and none made it into doubles figures before the break.
Penn State teams in the past might’ve folded early in this game while a tournament-bound team like the Buckeyes found their groove, but sophomore sensations Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens weren’t going to let that happen. Carr finished with the half with 14 points as Stevens finished with 12, and the Nittany Lions didn’t allow just one field goal in the final five minutes to go into the locker room with a 33-32 lead.
After a back-and-forth, high-powered first half, both teams stalled out to get things started in the second. Penn State’s defense continued to suffocate the Buckeyes — giving up just a single field goal on nine attempts and not allowing second opportunities through the first six-and-a-half minutes. The Nittany Lions weren’t too vibrant either during that stretch, but reached their largest lead of eight points.
Failing to pull away while the Buckeyes were struggling, Penn State looked like it might pay for it. Bates-Diop started to get going. The 6’7″ forward rallied after a quiet first half to finish with 25 points and give the Buckeyes a lead in the waning minutes.
The Nittany Lions were hanging around until the finish. After Bates-Diop missed an open three on one end, Josh Reaves drove to the hoop, got fouled, and knocked down both free throws to bring Penn State within one with 41.5 seconds left. Shep Garner got a huge steal to deny the Buckeyes a chance to ice out the game and Tony Carr, in the offensive set at the top of the key, found Reaves with a killer pass on the opposite end to put Penn State ahead 69-68 with three seconds to go.
The Buckeyes couldn’t get a decent opportunity off on their last possession to end the game.
Player of the Game
Tony Carr | Guard | Sophomore
It’s his world and we’re just living in it. Carr takes over games when he needs to, and that’s what happened against the Buckeyes. Scoring 25 points, he bested his season average for the second time in two games at the Garden to keep NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
The Nittany Lions are heading to the Big Ten semifinals for the first time since they reached the final in 2011. Joining Michigan and Michigan State, Penn State will face off with the winner of the final game Friday night between Purdue and Rutgers. Tipoff Saturday is at 4:30 p.m. and the game can be seen live on CBS.