The Buckeyes (22-7, 12-4 Big Ten) held off a second-half charge from the Nittany Lions (10-17, 2-13) and got all but four points from four starters in a 75-67 victory that allows them to keep the heat on conference leader Purdue, which entered the evening a half-game ahead of them in the standings.
"I told our guys, ‘You come in here and got what you wanted. It may not be exactly the way you wanted, but we got it,' " OSU basketball coach Thad Matta told the Ohio State Basketball Radio Network.
Junior guard Evan Turner once again led the way with a game-high 25 points, but 10 of them came when they were needed the most.
A four-point halftime lead for OSU quickly ballooned in the second half as the visitors opened with a 10-2 run keyed by two three-pointers from junior guard Jon Diebler that set the score at 40-28 with 17:37 left. Those would be his only three-pointers of the night.
PSU stemmed the run with a basket from forward Jeff Brooks, but Turner converted two free throws at the 16:43 mark to start another Buckeye run. This one culminated in a three-pointer from junior forward David Lighty at the 13:50 mark that gave OSU a game-high lead of 17 points at 49-32.
The final outcome looked certain at that point, but the home team quickly shot its way back into the game. Sandwiched around missed three-pointers from Turner and Diebler, the Nittany Lions hit three three-pointers in a span of 69 seconds to cut the deficit down to eight points at 49-41 with 11:49 remaining.
"We didn't have the toughness going back on the defensive end to get the stops that we needed," Matta said. "Fortunately for us we made some big plays down the stretch."
The Buckeyes pushed the lead back to 11 points when Turner hit on a baseline jumper with 9:38 remaining, but the Nittany Lions then what amounted to their final charge of the evening. When forward David Jackson converted a three-point play on a foul from Turner with 5:15 remaining, it capped a 13-4 run that made the score 59-57 and the home crowd could smell the upset.
Turner answered with a drive to the basket, then hit two free throws at the 3:53 mark to make it 63-57. PSU countered with a basket from Jackson, but Turner would hit a jumper two possessions later to push the lead back to six.
A turnover by reserve Tim Frazier on his team's ensuing possession led to a pull-up jumper from Turner with 1:59 left that capped a personal 8-2 run for the junior. The Nittany Lions would get no closer than five points the rest of the way as the Buckeyes went to a 1-3-1 zone to try and guard against the PSU dribble penetration that had also helped it claw back into the game.
In addition to his 25 points, Turner finished with seven boards, seven assists and three steals. Lighty went 6 for 9 from the floor and had two highlight reel-worthy dunks, finishing with 18 points. Diebler had 16 despite going 2 for 10 from deep, while sophomore guard William Buford finished with 12 – 10 of which came in the first half.
Lauderdale was the fifth Buckeye to score. He had four points but added a game-high 10 rebounds.
It marked the sixth straight road victory for the Buckeyes and their 13th straight against the Nittany Lions. It also marked the 16th straight time OSU has held PSU to less than 70 points.
The Buckeyes opened up a lead as large as eight points in the first half, but the home team closed on a 4-0 run to set the score at 30-26. After PSU guard Talor Battle hit two free throws to make it 30-24, OSU reserve Kyle Madsen airballed a jumper at the other end. The Buckeyes nearly came up with a steal, but Battle wound up missing a three-pointer that was rebounded by forward David Jackson.
He was tied up in the paint, but the possession arrow favored the Nittany Lions. After inbounding the ball under their own basket with less than four seconds left in the half, Battle caught the pass on the left side of the paint and somehow found Frazier with a bounce pass that the freshman put in as time expired. The shot was reviewed by officials and ultimately upheld.
That OSU had any sort of halftime lead at all was a credit to the play of Buford, who was 5 for 8 from the floor and led the team with 10 points. The rest of the lineup went 7 for 20, a figure that included a 1 for 7 performance from Turner.
The junior helped fill out the stat sheet with five boards, four assists and three steals during the half, however. His five points came on consecutive possessions when he converted two free throws at the 11:26 mark and then threw down a powerful right-handed dunk after inbounding the ball under his own basket and having it passed directly back to him, drawing a foul and hitting from the charity strip to make the score 14-13 in favor of the Buckeyes with 10:42 left.
OSU was handed a momentum boost with 5:42 remaining when PSU assistant coach Lewis Preston was whistled for a technical foul after Turner drew contact with PSU center Andrew Jones while on offense but no foul was called. Diebler hit two free throws for the Buckeyes to make it 26-19, but an ensuing basket from Lauderdale was waved off when he was whistled for a charge.
Neither team could get much going from beyond the arc in the first half. The Nittany Lions were 1 for 9 from three while OSU was 1 for 7. The lone make for the Buckeyes came from junior forward David Lighty, while Diebler missed all four of his attempts.
Battle led his team with 22 points but was limited to three assists and committed three turnovers.
The Buckeyes won the rebounding battle by a 33-30 margin.