The No. 4 Buckeyes instead treated Penn State to the usual Value City Arena treatment, blowing out the last-place Nittany Lions 78-54. Penn State became the 13th team to lose by 20 or more points in Columbus – the Buckeyes blew out Miami (Ohio) in Nationwide Arena – and Ohio State moved into a first place tie with the Wolverines in the Big Ten.
"We don't look at the Big Ten standings a lot," sophomore point guard Aaron Craft said. "I think Coach (Thad) Matta tries to hide them from us, too. I think we understand every game is important and it doesn't matter who we play."
Leading the way for the Buckeyes (18-3, 6-2 Big Ten) was Jared Sullinger, who scored 20 points and had 13 rebounds to put together his ninth double-double of the season and third-consecutive since Ohio State's loss at Illinois.
Senior guard William Buford had 16 points and nine rebounds and Craft, who scored all of his 11 points in the first half, held Penn State point guard Tim Frazier – the Big Ten's leading scorer – to 16 points off of 6-of-17 shooting.
"That is life in the Big Ten," Sullinger said. "You have to protect your home court. As long as you win at home, you're going to be pretty successful. We (never look at standings) and we focus on this basketball team and what we need to accomplish. Next up is Michigan on Sunday."
Sullinger doesn't have to take a close gander at the implications of what Sunday will mean. The Wolverines have won four of their last five in Big Ten play, including home wins against conference contenders Michigan State and Wisconsin.
"That is going to be a big time game," Sullinger said. "One, because it is a rivalry, but two because they're really flowing right now. They won a big game at Purdue and they're going to come in here with a lot of confidence and their heads held high. We need to play with a lot of confidence and take them out of that."
If Michigan shoots the way Penn State did in Value City Arena Sunday, the Wolverines likely won't have a chance to slow down the Buckeyes, a team that has now won three-consecutive conference games by 17 or more points.
The Nittany Lions shot 31 percent from the floor – including a 21.9 percent clip in the first half – en route to become the latest victim of an Ohio State blowout.
Penn State has now lost its last 10 road games against ranked opponents on the road, a streak the Nittany Lions didn't have much of a chance of ending when starting off making only three of their first 16 field goal attempts.
"We just don't shoot well on the road," first-year Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "We shot 31 percent tonight. That's pretty much our average on the road."
Tim Frazier, Penn State's leading scorer, got his first bucket over seven minutes into the contest, but by that time Ohio State had already built what turned out to be an insurmountable 11-point lead.
Frazier's score wasn't enough to get the Nittany Lions (10-12, 2-7) out of their shooting rut, as the Buckeyes rattled off an 11-2 run from there. While adding nine points to their advantage, Ohio State got points from Craft, redshirt junior Evan Ravenel, freshman reserve Sam Thompson and Sullinger, who capped off the scoring burst with a layup.
Craft – well on his way to the career-high of 19 he scored the last time the Nittany Lions were in Columbus – made a freakish three-pointer just a minute before the half to extend the Buckeyes lead to 20.
Trying to find Thompson on an alley-oop, Craft lofted the ball up toward the rim. Instead of Thompson finishing the pass attempt with the intend slam, the ball fell into the hoop. Craft was credited with the trey and it set the Buckeyes advantage to 38-18, the score at halftime.
"We had a good laugh about it," said Thompson, who finished with six points, two rebounds and three assists in 17 minutes. "I joked at halftime that he would never be able to do that ever again for the rest of his life."
Craft repaid Thompson for being a good sport on the missed opportunity in the second half, lobbing an inbounds pass to Thompson who finished with a thunderous slam that brought the Buckeyes faithful to their feet.
Thompsons dunk extended the Buckeyes' lead to 51-29 with 15:16 remaining in the game. Ohio State would eventually get out to a game-high 29-point advantage when Sullinger knocked down a jumper with 10:48 remaining in the contest.
"We're still improving," head coach Thad Matta said. "We need to continue to build team unity and understand both sides of the ball. Guys are starting to understand their roles better. There are some great challenges ahead for us."