That’s how Ohio State (19-6, 8-4) bookended its second straight double-digit victory over a conference opponent, a 75-55 win over Penn State (15-10, 3-9) Wednesday night in a game that was never in doubt.
“We definitely made it tough,” senior Sam Thompson said. “We gave ourselves a good cushion at the beginning. We really dictated the way the game would be played at the beginning and we kind of rode that wave.”
Scott’s jumper started a 12-0 game-opening run by the Buckeyes and the Ohio State advantage would not dip below eight points for the rest of the game. Penn State missed its first eight shots before Julian Moore got the Nittany Lions on the board.
The stellar defensive continued as the Buckeyes, particularly Thompson, hounded the Big Ten’s leading scorer in D.J. Newbill throughout the night. The Penn State guard ended with 16 points, but they were hard earned as he needed 13 shots to get them. Newbill didn’t register a field goal attempt until 6:41 had run off the clock.
“That was just it, just make him work,” Thompson said. “No open looks, try and keep him off the foul line, stay down on his fakes. Make sure when he had the ball he saw five Ohio State defenders. We did a great job of doing that across the board.”
While Thompson was instrumental in shutting down Newbill, he also delivered the best offensive performance of his career. The senior forward scored a career-high 22 points, besting a previous high of 20 that he set on March 22, 2013 against Iona.
The fact that Thompson, whose previous high this season was 17 points, was able to lead the team in scoring opened things up for everybody else.
“I was so happy to see the ball going in for Sam,” head coach Thad Matta said. “He puts a lot of time in and we’ve kind of been saying if we can get him making some shots it makes us a lot more effective just in terms of our spacing and creating driving lanes, that sort of thing. His ability in transition, everybody fears he’s running to the rim, being able to step out and knock down shots definitely opens things up for us.”
Thompson got going early, hitting two of his three first-half 3-point attempts and finished 3-of-5 from beyond the arc.
After the game-opening 12-point burst form the Buckeyes, Penn State was able to keep the score around that margin for much of the first half, but the Nittany Lions still struggled to score and nine first-half turnovers allowed Ohio State to get out and run.
One such turnover resulted in two of Ohio State’s 21 points off turnovers as Scott fed Jae’Sean Tate for an easy layup to double-up Penn State 32-16 with 4:29 remaining in the half. The advantage would swell to 17 in the first half before the Buckeyes went to the break with a 37-23 advantage.
Ohio State let the Nittany Lions hang around after halftime.
“We were a little bit sloppy to start the second half with some turnovers, we didn’t catch the ball, we fed middle and didn’t dive on it, but the execution was pretty good,” Matta said. “I thought we were able to change gears when we needed to just in terms of transition wasn’t there, we brought it out and we executed which is something we’ve been striving for.”
The Buckeyes advantage bounced between 12 and 14 points for much of the first nine minutes after intermission before a Keita Bates-Diop layup made it 53-37 with 11:12 remaining.
Bates-Diop did a little of everything, finishing with 7 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks and two steals. D’Angelo Russell continued his stellar play with 17 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists.
A pair of free throws from Shannon Scott with 6:07 remaining extended the advantage to 64-43, the first time the Buckeyes led by 20. The score would hover around that margin for the remainder of the game.
Ohio State was without Anthony Lee and Marc Loving in the game, but it didn’t seem to matter. Lee sat with a groin injury that he has been dealing with for the last three weeks, Matta said, and the center is day-to-day.
Loving, meanwhile, sat with a suspension for undisclosed reasons for the third consecutive game. Matta said that he was optimistic that the forward would return to the lineup Saturday against Michigan State.