On Wednesday night at Value City Arena, something had to give. And it did.
OSU snapped its longest losing streak in seven years, holding off a Penn State charge and winning 68-62 before 12,482 in Big Ten men's basketball action.
"Obviously, it feels good to be back on the winning side," said OSU coach Thad Matta, whose team never trailed. "I think you have to give Penn State credit. They hit some incredible shots in the second half."
Tony Stockman led Ohio State (13-7, 2-4) with 17 points. Stockman was 7 of 18 from the floor, including 1 of 9 on three-pointers. Brandon Fuss-Cheatham added a season-high 15 points, hitting 3 of 5 three-point tries and dishing three assists.
"It was nice to get some shots up and to make them," Fuss-Cheatham said. "They were trapping and left me open. I had some opportunities and I made them."
Je'Kel Foster added 14 points and seven rebounds, nailing 4 of 5 three-point tries. J.J. Sullinger added 10 points and six rebounds.
"It's always difficult when you lose," Foster said. "It feels good to get a win. We had a chip on our shoulder and came out and played hard. We ran the floor better than any game we've played."
The Lions gave OSU center Terence Dials a ton of attention with burly center Aaron Johnson and a standard double team keeping Dials from getting many scoring opportunities. He finished with a Big Ten-low five points and grabbed eight rebounds.
"That's how Fuss was getting wide open shots," Foster said. "They were so concerned with Terence, they left our guards wide open at times."
Fuss-Cheatham made, perhaps, the game's biggest shot with 3:04 left. He hit a three-pointer on an inside-out feed from Dials to stake the Buckeyes to a 63-54 lead.
"I took that personal," Fuss-Cheatham said. "In the past, guys have left me and the shots haven't gone down. This year, they can't do that. If they leave me, I want to hit them with a dagger."
Geary Claxton led Penn State (7-12, 1-5) with 18 points and nine rebounds. Mike Walker added 12 points, while Danny Morrissey had nine points. Ben Luber and Travis Parker each had eight points. Johnson finished with three points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
"I was disappointed," said PSU coach Ed DeChellis. "We had two good days of practice, but we did not have the same energy and zip in the first half. In the second half, we played with a purpose. In the first half, we were just running around.
"If you tell me that Dials would have five points and we would outrebound them (42-33), I'd say we'd have a chance to win the game. But they stepped up and made some big shots."
Claxton continued his fine play with his sixth straight double-digit game in Big Ten play.
"He played, obviously, very well," DeChellis said. "He's just a competitor. He competes at both ends of the floor and got 18 points and nine rebounds. He wants to win and he wants to compete. He plays hard and he plays with a purpose."
Stockman scored 11 of his points in the first half as the Buckeyes jumped out to leads of 11-1, 22-11 and 33-18 before settling for a 37-26 advantage at halftime.
Stockman opened the scoring with a 17-footer and a steal for a layup. After Claxton made a free throw for PSU, Fuss-Cheatham made a three-pointer off a pass from Stockman to beat the shot chock. Fuss-Cheatham then had a steal, drove and spun free for a layup. Sullinger staked the Buckeyes to an 11-1 lead with his rebound basket with 14:57 left in the first half.
"We started the game better than we have recently," Matta said. "We are still searching for that consistent play."
Johnson scored PSU's first field goal on a layup 5:23 into the game. After Luber cut the lead to 13-9 with 12:57 left, OSU reeled off nine straight points. The run included a trey from Sullinger and was capped by Foster's rebound basket off his own miss to put the Buckeyes up 22-11 with 10:13 left in the half.
Luber then buried another three and Claxton hit a turnaround shot inside to cut the lead to 22-16 with 8:04 left. But OSU hit three straight three-pointers – one by Stockman and two by Foster – and Stockman canned a baseline jumper to give OSU its biggest lead of the half at 33-18 with 5:23 left.
PSU's Mike Walker scored all four of his first-half points in the final minute, burying a baseline jumper with 46 seconds left and make 2 of 3 free throws with 5.2 seconds left to trim the halftime gap to 37-26.
Penn State went to work to open the second half. Claxton hit a jumper and Walker nailed a trey to cut the gap to 37-31 with 18:27 left. On successive possessions, Stockman missed missed a three and threw the ball out of bounds. Claxton then had a layup to trim the lead to four at 40-36 with 16:55 left.
The Buckeyes got it back out to nine, at 52-43, after Stockman stole the ball and fed Foster for a trey, then made a pullup jumper on the baseline with 9:43 left.
But Penn State would not go away. Claxton made a driving layup off a Matt Sylvester turnover and, after a Stockman miss, Luber buried a trey in transition to cut the gap to 52-48 with 8:07 left.
"We had a stretch in the second half where we had great looks, but, unfortunately, the ball was not going down for us," Matta said.
However, the Lions would draw no closer. After a Sylvester miss, PSU's Danny Morrissey rimmed out a three that would have cut it to one. OSU answered with Fuss-Cheatham hitting a 12-foot jumper and Foster burying a trey off a pass from Fuss-Cheatham to go back up 57-48 with 5:59 left.
Morrissey got the lead down to six at 60-54 with a trey with 3:58 left. But OSU answered when Fuss-Cheatham splashed a three off an inside-out feed from Dials to put the Buckeyes up 63-54 with 3:04 left.
"The possession before Terence kicked it out and I kind of bobbled it and I had to pass it to Matt," Fuss-Cheatham said. "I knew the next time it happened, my guy would leave me. I had my hands ready and my feet set so when it came back out I was ready to shoot it."
Sylvester made a pair of free throws with 1:57 left to put OSU up 65-54.
Penn State fought to the end. A Morrissey three-pointer with 20.8 seconds cut it to 65-59. Then after Stockman made a pair of free throws, Walker canned a three to cut it to 67-62 with 11.6 seconds left.
OSU's Foster then traveled on the inbounds play. But PSU could not convert. Luber missed a three and Sullinger rebounded and was fouled with 6.6 seconds left. He made 1 of 2 free throws to ice it.
"We just couldn't make the big one when we needed to," DeChellis said.
* Fuss-Cheatham's 15-point game was two shy of his career-high game of 17 at Iowa last year. It eclipsed his season high of 14 against Clemson and was his first double-digit game in Big Ten play.
* Dials off night was attributed to illness.
"I know he hasn't felt well here recently," Matta said. "We've gone hard here the last couple of days. We probably need to get him as much rest as we can. But we've got to get him back playing well."
It was also a rough night for Dials' inside mate, Ivan Harris. He was scoreless for the first time all year and logged just 16 minutes.
"I don't think he ever got flowing offensively," Matta said. "We've been on him that we want him to take good shots, but they weren't there for him tonight."
* OSU improved to 16-13 all-time against Penn State, including 11-4 in Columbus. The Buckeyes are now 5-1 all-time against PSU in Value City Arena since it opened for the 1998-99 season.
* OSU improved to 87-21 all-time in VCA and 11-1 at home this year (one game was at St. John Arena).
* Matta, in his fifth season as a college head coach, saw his record improve to 64-7 in home games.
* The Buckeyes travel to Northwestern Saturday (12:17 p.m., ESPN-Plus regional syndication). The Wildcats improved to 9-9 overall and 2-4 in Big Ten play after stunning No. 23 Iowa 75-74 in overtime Wednesday night. Penn State hosts Wisconsin at 8 p.m. Saturday.