Using a zone defense to collapse down on freshman center Greg Oden and a patient offense to slow the tempo, struggling PSU made Ohio State look mortal at Value City Arena Wednesday, going punch for punch until the Buckeyes crept away late for a 68-60 win.
A week earlier in the Jordan Center, Penn State missed a last-second, game-winning 3-pointer in a 64-62 loss.
Penn State is now 10-16 on the season and 1-12 in the Big Ten. Ohio State, ranked No. 1 in the ESPN/USA Today Poll, improved to 25-3 and 13-1 heading into Sunday's historic home tilt with Wisconsin, which is ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Poll.
The Badgers would be wise to consider playing some zone in that one.
It worked perfectly for the Nittany Lions for most of this game Wednesday. They led 27-24 at the half. Also key for Penn State: OSU was 1 of 8 from the arc in the first 20 minutes.
We wanted to make them play defense, said guard David Jackson, who had 14 points off the bench for PSU. The longer we had the ball, the shorter we had to guard. We controlled the game and slowed the pace.
Penn State boosted the lead to eight early in the second half (32-24), and was in the middle of an amazing two-game run in which it outscored the Buckeyes 70-48. But the Lions didn't have the juice to pull away. The game hinged on a flurry with just under eight minutes to go and the score tied, 45-45.
Lion Geary Claxton lobbed a shot in the lane over Oden, and it looked like it was going down before rimming and coming out. The Buckeyes went on the break and freshman guard Michael Conley converted a conventional three-point play.
On the other end, PSU's Jamelle Cornley was called for an offensive foul for hooking a man on a post up. Then OSU's Jamar Butler then made a 3-pointer to boost the Buckeye lead to 51-45. Penn State could not recover.
I thought we had Jamelle on a nice play, and an offensive foul was called, DeChellis said. That was a big play, because we were gonna score a layup. We haven't been able to absorb plays like that.
Butler was 4 of 6 from the arc in the game (with three of them coming in the final 10 minutes) to finish with a team-high 18 points. Oden had 17 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks.
He's pretty good, DeChellis said of the big man.
Claxton led PSU with 15 points and eight boards.
The 12-game regular-season Big Ten losing streak is Penn State's longest in a single season since joining the league in the 1992-93. The Lions have lost all seven of their road games this year.
PSU starting point guard Ben Luber left the game after less than a minute had been played when he took a hard fall after being fouled by Butler. Luber hurt ha wrist on the play and did not return. He was replaced by Walker, who did a good job of controlling the tempo for most of the game before tiring late. Though Walker made only 1 of 7 shots and had several late turnovers, DeChellis said, Mike did a great job under pressure.
Penn State faces Illinois at the Jordan Center Saturday. It is Senior Day for the team.