In a nationally televised conference matchup, the Buckeyes established themselves near the basket in the second half and used a deliberate, methodical approach to wear down the Nittany Lions, winning by a 68-56 score.
OSU (15-6, 6-2 Big Ten) outscored the Nittany Lions (10-10, 2-6) by a 12-point margin after entering the half with the score knotted at 34. It did not take long for OSU's big men to make an impact in the second half.
On the first possession of the second half, OSU senior forward Othello Hunter came up with a steal near the three-point arc and ran the floor coast-to-coast, laying it in at the other end to give the Buckeyes a two-point lead.
Penn State would open up a 44-40 lead, but things would get ugly from there. Following a basket by senior forward Jamelle Cornley at the 14:40 mark of the half, the Nittany Lions would not score again for another 10:17. PSU missed 10 consecutive shots and turned the ball over five times during that stretch.
At the other end of the court, the Buckeyes went on a 16-0 run to help open up a 56-44 lead. From there, the home team would not get back to within less than eight points until the final 30 seconds of the game.
Matta said the Buckeyes did something simple on defense that kept the Nittany Lions off the scoresheet.
"We bent our knees," he told the Ohio State Basketball Radio Network. "It's about that simple. We played harder. More awareness. Quite honestly I think the biggest thing was getting back and just getting set and then making them have to make plays. That's just, I guess we weren't as ready as we needed to be (early)."
Although the star of the game was Butler, who had a game-high 20 points to go with six assists in 40 minutes of action, the Buckeyes got solid contributions from all their big men down low.
Even freshman forward Dallas Lauderdale, who has seen limited action throughout the season, grabbed an offensive rebound and threw down a powerful dunk early in the first half.
At the other end of the court, Cornley was held to five points on just five shots.
"I think they were looking to try to beat us from outside the arc and they really didn't go down there a whole lot," Matta said.
For the game, the Nittany Lions shot 32 treys – more than half of their 60 attempted field goals – and connected on nine of them, good for 28.1 percent.
It seemed the Buckeyes got production out of each player who stepped on the court. Sophomore swingman David Lighty had eight points in 28 minutes of action, canning 2 of 6 three pointers. Freshman guard Evan Turner had just five points but dished out a game-high seven assists.
"From Dallas Lauderdale coming in who had a nice finish, I thought Evan did a good job of getting in the flow of the offense and distributing the ball," Matta said. "Kosta made some big plays for us. It's just that deal I've been saying, being consistent and getting us to play that way all the way through."
As has been the case for much of the season, though, the Buckeyes struggled on the boards. The Nittany Lions grabbed 34 boards – 15 on the offensive end – compared to 30 rebounds and just eight on the offensive glass for OSU. PSU center Andrew Jones finished with a game-high 10 rebounds.
A late basket by Terwilliger, set up by a steal by Butler, allowed the Buckeyes to pull even as both teams headed to the locker room.
The teams traded baskets early, but a 9-0 PSU run helped the Nittany Lions open up a 19-12 lead with 11:57 remaining in the half. PSU hit six consecutive shots from the floor while the Buckeyes struggled offensively. During the run, OSU missed four shots and committed one turnover.
But after Matta called a timeout, the Buckeyes quickly responded. Sophomore swingman David Lighty drained his second trey of the night on OSU's next possession, sparking an 11-2 run for the Buckeyes that saw them open up a 23-21 lead.
Half of PSU's first 24 points came via the fast break, as the Nittany Lions frequently pushed the ball up the court and caught OSU's defense before it could set up. In all, the home team scored 15 fast-break points in the first 20 minutes. That speed was coupled by a physical presence on the boards – OSU did not grab an offensive rebound until the 12:52 mark of the first half, a span of 13 possessions.
The Buckeyes have now won three straight games in the Big Ten.