Unfortunately for the season-best crowd of 15,403 packing the BJC, the Nittany Lions' veteran-dominated rotation was not up to the challenge of taking down the nation's top team -- not even close.
Nothing was good for us, in any sense of the word, PSU coach Ed DeChellis said.
Looking overwhelmed from the tip, Penn State opened the game in a 2-for-12 funk while falling behind 20-10 and never recovered. The 82-61 loss dropped the Lions to 15-13 overall and 8-9 in the Big Ten, and with one game left before the conference tournament their NCAA chances may well require life support.
We just didn't have it tonight, which stinks, said senior guard Talor Battle, who led the Lions with 18 points, five rebounds and three assists. The atmosphere was great, I thank those guys (the fans). I'm sorry we disappointed them.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes, playing their second game in three days, improved to 28-2 and 15-2 -- and clinched a share of the Big Ten title -- with what seemed to be all the effort of shooing away gnats.
The guys executed the game plan very well, OSU coach Thad Matta said.
In what has been a bugaboo for Penn State this season, the seniors not named Battle came up small in a pivotal game. Forwards Jeff Brooks and David Jackson opened the action by going a combined 2 of 14 from the floor. Center Andrew Jones hit a pair of free throws before heading to the bench with two fouls 11 minutes in.
We had a lot of open looks, Jackson said. Jeff had a lot of balls going in and out. I had balls that wouldn't go in. It was just one of those days.
Adding to the Lions' woes: sophomore guard Tim Frazier, coming off the bench for the first time all season because DeChellis started walk-on senior Steve Kirkpatrick in his place, delivered one of his worst halves when he finally hit the floor. Frazier finished the first half with three turnovers, one assist and no shots attempted. He had six turnovers in the game.
And adding to all of that, Penn State offered poor perimeter defense -- again -- allowing Ohio State bomber Jon Diebler to make 5 of 6 triples in the first 20 minutes. Diebler finished 10 of 12 on treys, including 10 straight, for a game-high 30 points. The 10 triples tied a Big Ten record.
They're very good, DeChellis said. And if they shoot it (well), they're unbeatable.
The Lions trailed 33-18 at the break, and just when it seemed things could not get worse, they did. Much worse.
The Buckeyes opened the second half with a jumper by David Lighty. As the ball went through the hoop, Jones fouled Jared Sullinger, giving OSU another possession. William Buford turned it into another 3-pointer for a 38-18 lead and the game was effectively over a minute and eight seconds into the second half.
It was demoralizing, Battle said. We were pretty much crushed.
Oddly enough, this was the same Buckeye outfit that had its collective hands full with the Lions in Columbus Jan. 15, needing practically every second to pull out a 69-66 victory. In this game, though, they led by as many as 26 points in the second half.
With 10 minutes to go, and fans already heading to the exits, the PA announcer thanked the big crowd for showing up. There was a polite round of applause that paled in comparison to the cheers that met the seniors -- especially Battle -- in a pre-game ceremony.
Whether it was a farewell ceremony for the seniors remains to be seen. Because just as Tuesday's sad showing hurt their chances of landing in the program's first NCAA Tournament in a decade, it also moved them that much closer to the consolation prize that is an NIT bid and the home game(s) that is(are) almost certain to come with it.
DeChellis was not up for any post-season talk after the game, though. His primary concern was Sunday's regular-season finale at Minnesota (1 p.m. tip).
Trying to become 9-9 in a very good league, that's our goal right now, he said.
Penn State is now 0-12 all-time vs. top-ranked teams. The Lions have lost 14 straight to Ohio State.
The crowd was the sixth largest in the history of the BJC. The student turnout of 6,072 was a PSU record.
OSU was 13 of 24 from the arc in the game.
In the first half, Jackson (five), Brooks (two) and Jones (two) combined for nine points. In the second half, when the game was no contest, they combined for 19.
Jackson became Penn State's career leader in games played (130).