No. 8 Ohio State just had to win its remaining four games to become outright Big Ten regular-season champions. But going into State College, Pennsylvania, to face off against Penn State, the only conference team that had beaten Ohio State this season, the road was not going to be easy.
The Buckeyes left Happy Valley anything but happy after getting mauled by the Nittany Lions 79-56, bringing Ohio State to a tie for first place in the conference with No. 2 Michigan State. Ohio State still holds the tiebreaker for seeding in the Big Ten tournament.
The Buckeyes (22-6, 13-2 Big Ten) shot just 39 percent overall and 13 percent from 3-point range, while the Nittany Lions (19-9, 9-6 Big Ten) shot 48 percent from the field, and were commanding from beyond the arc, shooting 45 percent.
In the head-to-head matchup between Ohio State redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop and Penn State sophomore guard Tony Carr, the conference’s scoring leaders, Carr finished with the upper hand, scoring 30 points off 9-for-15 shooting, including 50 percent from 3. Bates-Diop had just 10 points and five rebounds.
Penn State went on a near-four-minute scoring drought, but went on a 15-3 run with 1:30 left in the first half to go up 40-19. The first half came to an end with a full-court pass that was caught by Carr on the baseline, who made the layup and the subsequent and-1 to give Penn State the 45-21 halftime lead. It was the largest first-half deficit Ohio State has faced all season.
Ohio State began to show some life around the middle of the second half. Trailing by 30 points, the Buckeyes went on an 18-4 run to bring the game to 58-42 with 10:37 left to play.
The game got off to a rough start for Ohio State. The Buckeyes had four points from freshman center Kaleb Wesson, but he landed awkwardly on his ankle trying to grab a defensive rebound and was forced to leave the game. Wesson returned with 10:50 left in the first half.
After the injury, Penn State sprinted to a 12-0 run that included Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann getting hit for a technical foul for arguing with the referees. Wesson’s four points were the Buckeyes’ only points until junior guard C.J. Jackson made a layup with 13:31 left in the first half. Penn State guard Tony Carr responded immediately with a 3 to bring the Nittany Lion lead to 17-6.