Steve Muza / For The Lantern
With just less than a minute remaining in the first half of the Ohio State men’s basketball game against Penn State, OSU sophomore guard Aaron Craft attempted to alley-oop freshman forward Sam Thompson about 35 feet from the basket.
Thompson leapt to catch the ball, but Craft’s pass never made it into his hands.
Instead, the pass landed in the hoop and was good for a 3-pointer.
“Well, I got pretty lucky,” Craft said.
It was that kind of night for the Buckeyes.
No. 4-ranked OSU routed Penn State, 78-54, and moved into a share of the Big Ten lead.
The 24-point victory is nothing new for the Buckeyes, especially at home. Not only are the Buckeyes undefeated at the Schottenstein Center, but only one team — Florida — has come closer than 17 points.
The win moved OSU’s home record to 15-0 on the season and extended their home win streak to 37 games, the second-longest such streak in program history.
PSU coach Patrick Chambers said playing at home is a huge advantage for any team.
“The comforts of home and playing in this arena and the fans — it helps (OSU),” Chambers said. “It makes a difference. Going on the road in the Big Ten is absolutely brutal.”
Defense led the way for the Buckeyes.
PSU missed their first seven shots from the floor, and OSU jumped to an early 8-0 advantage.
With six minutes remaining in the first half, PSU had managed just six points and was shooting less than 25 percent from the floor.
OSU led at halftime, 38-18.
Coming into the game, PSU junior guard Tim Frazier was the Big Ten’s leading scorer, averaging 18 points a game.
Frazier got his points in the game, finishing with 16, but 11 of those came in the second half when Craft was only on the floor for six minutes.
Craft contributed offensively as well, adding 11 points.
Chambers said Frazier needs to bring it every night for his team to be successful and Craft got him out of his game.
“I thought Craft did a great job on him.” Chambers said. “I think Craft got into Tim a little bit mentally and physically.”
OSU coach Thad Matta agreed.
“I thought Aaron was extremely effective,” Matta said. “I think (Frazier) had six points with 12 minutes to go and Aaron likes a good challenge. But for the majority of the game we gave him good support.”
Craft made up for missing Thompson in the first half by throwing a lob from an inbounds play that Thompson caught high above the rim and finished with a one-hand jam.
Thompson, who joked that he was a “decoy” on the first play, said he and Craft talked about the 35-footer at halftime.
“I had a pretty good laugh about it,” Thompson said. “We just executed the play in the second half.
The dunk gave OSU a 51-29 lead.
Thompson finished with six points, two rebounds and three assists.
Senior guard William Buford, who has been going through what some have described as a midseason slump, found his stroke from behind the arc, connecting on three 3-pointers. Buford had 15 points and 9 rebounds on the game.
OSU sophomore forward Jared Sullinger left the game with just under 11 minutes remaining, but was still the Buckeyes’ high-point man, ending with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
The win improves OSU’s overall record to 18-3 and its conference record to 6-2.
The Buckeyes are now tied atop the Big Ten standings with Michigan, which travels to the Schottenstein Center Sunday for a 1 p.m. tipoff.
The game, which is already sold-out, will have Big Ten title ramifications.
“You always got to get up for Michigan,” Sullinger said. “Every sport at Ohio State and Michigan, if we clash it’s always a rivalry.”