They got it – for about 30 minutes.
The Nittany Lions (15-15, 3-14) led for much of the first half and the early second before a 21-4 run second-half run from the Buckeyes (22-8, 11-6) allowed them to pull away for a 77-67 road win.
After a first half of runs, Penn State went to the half leading 30-29 and opened the second half on an 8-0 run with all those points coming at the rim. The sluggish start to the second period prompted a timeout from head coach Thad Matta with his team trailing 38-29 with 18:08 remaining.
That got the Buckeyes and star D’Angelo Russell rolling.
The big run started with free throws from Shannon Scott and Jae’Sean Tate followed with back-to-back finishes at the rim. Two possessions later Russell hit a three to put Ohio State up 40-38 with 14:35 remaining, the Buckeyes first lead since it was 17-16 with nine minutes left in the first.
It was just the start for Russell. He nailed his next two three-point attempts to give him three made shots from behind the arc in four possessions. The freshman scored 19 points in the second half on his way to a game-high 28.
The run extended the Buckeyes lead to 50-42 on a steal and an old fashioned three-point play from Russell. A corner three from Scott off of a Russell pass made gave the Buckeyes their first double-digit lead at 55-44 with 9:51 remaining.
Another Russell three followed, and though Penn State would get within nine points with 1:54 left, the Buckeyes largely kept Nittany Lions at bay for the game’s final eight minutes.
The early second-half timeout from Matta, and Russell’s success from behind the arc, seemed to buoy the entire team’s shooting. Prior to that point the Buckeyes had hit just 11 of their 33 attempts. Ohio State closed hitting 13 of their final 23, including 5 of 9 from behind the line after a 1 for 8 start.
The big second-half effort was needed thanks to an energetic Nittany Lions performance and cold shooting from the Buckeyes.
The teams traded baskets early with the Buckeyes taking their first lead at 8-6. Ohio State led 13-8 at the first stoppage of play thanks to eight points from Tate, but a half of runs followed.
As Russell was forced to sit with two early fouls, Penn State made its move. The Nittany Lions scored on seven of eight possessions on a 21-5 run that gave them a 29-20 advantage. That run coincided with poor shooting from the Buckeyes who started the game 7-of-15 but went 2-of-12 over that stretch.
Much of the points in that came from Ross Travis. Playing in his final home game, the senior scored 14 points on the night after entering the contest averaging just 4.7 per game.
A 9-0 Buckeye run followed that saw four Buckeyes score with five of the points coming at the free-throw line. That tied the score before a Travis free throw brought the score to its halftime margin.
The victory gave Matta 297 wins at Ohio State, tying him with Fred Taylor for the most victories in program history. The coach got to that number in seven fewer seasons than Taylor needed and Matta boasts a winning percentage of over 77 percent.
While Travis got the Nittany Lions going early, fellow senior D.J. Newbill led the way for Penn State. The conference’s leading scorer managed 17 points, pushing him over 2,000 for his career.
Tate and Scott joined Russell in double figures as each finished with 13 points.
The Buckeyes will have a chance to get Matta the wins record outright Sunday at 4:30 p.m. against Wisconsin on senior night.