INDIANAPOLIS — Several factors led to Penn State dropping a 79-75 decision to Ohio State here Thursday night.
After burning the nets to the tune of seven made 3-pointers on 12 attempts in the first half, the 10th-seeded Nittany Lions cooled off. They made only 3 of 12 the rest of the way, and none early in the second period as the seventh-seed Buckeyes built a nine-point lead.
From its perspective, OSU changed things up early in the second stanza. The Buckeyes pressed. While it did not force a lot of turnovers, it did take PSU out of its offensive rhythm.
What else was in play? Well, when asked about his offense going on the fritz early in the second and the Ohio State press, Lion coach Pat Chambers went in another direction.
“I think foul trouble hurt us,” Chambers said. “We didn’t have the same guys in. We were deep in our bench. And sometimes that’s going to throw you a little bit off kilter.”
In other words — words that could be kind of overheard in an emotional locker room a bit later — he was not happy with the officiating.
Ohio State went to the free throw line 39 times in the game, making 26. PSU went to the stripe 21, making 14. So the difference was significant.
Starters Josh Reaves and Jordan Dickerson both fouled out for Penn State. So did backup guard Isaiah Washington. Dickerson and Washington played fewer than 19 minutes each.
In fairness, however, many of the fouls came when Ohio State was attacking the rim — which it did all night. The Buckeyes also out-rebounded PSU, 41-33, including 15 on the offensive end.
THIS IS THE END
Penn State is now 16-16, and is eligible for postseason play. But Chambers acknowledged after the game that the Lions probably would not get an NIT bid.
“I felt like we needed this game to be a lock,” he said.
We do not expect Penn State to accept a bid to one of the lesser tournaments.
Though senior forward Brandon Taylor played well (15 points) in what was likely his final game, sophomore guard Shep Garner gave the Lions the most juice as they fought back from the nine-point deficit in the second half to eventually take the lead.
Once PSU got comfortable against the OSU press, Garner began attacking the rim. We’ve seen this in spurts before, but never as consistently as we did Thursday.
“We managed to stay aggressive and attack them,” he explained. “It just took us a little bit longer.”
With his mom in the stands leading a small Penn State cheering section, Garner finished with 25 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals.
“Just shows you what kind of leader we have for our future in Shep Garner,” Chambers said.
• Senior Donovon Jack continued his late-season surge with 18 points and five rebounds. He went 8 of 10 from the line. If, as expected, this is his final game, it was a nice effort.
• Thanks mostly to Jack, the Lions got 23 points from their bench. The Buckeyes only got five from the pine.
• Dickerson (two points, four rebounds) and backup guard Devin Foster (two points, one rebound) also likely played their final college games
• OSU had seven blocks and seven steals, which were big in a game this tight.