But while the Nittany Lions didn't embarrass themselves before Brent Musberger, Steve Lavin, Erin Andrews and an ESPN audience, they didn't escape their funk, either. The Buckeyes broke open a tight game in the final 10 minutes to cruise to a 68-56 victory.
I think we improved, Lion coach Ed DeChellis said. That's no satisfaction, though.
PSU fell to 10-10 overall and 2-6 in the Big Ten with its sixth consecutive defeat. The Buckeyes are now 15-6 and 6-2.
Penn State once again started with a three-guard offense, and it helped the Lions combat OSU's matchup zone. PSU had 15 fastbreak points in the first half and early in the second half had made 7 of 16 3-pointers.
They crushed us in transition, Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.
Though leading scorer Jamelle Cornley struggled to get things going due to a sore left knee, State used a well-balanced offense to give the Buckeyes all they could handle for most of the game. When Cornley muscled in his second basket of the night with 14:21 remaining, the Lions led 44-40.
But as has happened so often during this losing streak, Penn State hit a spell where it could not make a basket. And the Buckeyes methodically pulled away, thanks to the clutch shooting of senior guard Jamar Butler.
Penn State didn't score for more than 10 minutes, missing 10 field goals and committing five turnovers during the dry spell. The OSU lead was 47-44 with 11 minutes left, 52-44 with eight minutes left and reached a high of a dozen (56-44) with 5:29 left before Lion Stanley Pringle finally made a 3-pointer with 4:04 showing.
I think we just kind of missed some shots and we weren't as aggressive, said guard Talor Battle, who paced PSU with 15 points. These droughts are hurting us.
You've got to make some baskets to get you some confidence and energy, DeChellis added.
The poor offense inevitably leads to frustration, which in turns leads to poor defense. Even after Pringle made the triple to cut the lead to 56-47, Penn State was lazy on the other end, allowing big man Matt Terwilliger to pop free for an open shot from the arc.
He made it, boosting the lead to 59-47 with 3:36 to go. The Lions were forced to foul in an attempt to get back in the game. It didn't work, as Butler and company took care of business from the line.
Butler was clearly the best player on the floor, going 4 of 9 from the arc and beating the shot clock on several attempts to finish with a game-high 20 points and six assists. Highly touted rookie center Kosta Koufos was held in check with 10 points and five rebounds.
Battle's stat line was strong for Penn State (15 points, five assists, 6 of 11 from the floor) save one area — he had five turnovers in the second half. Freshman center Andrew Jones played his best game of the year, scoring 11 points to go along with 10 rebounds in 28 minutes.
The Lions outrebounded the much taller Buckeyes 34-30, thanks in part to a return to form on the offensive glass (15).
Cornley is clearly struggling with his left knee. He played 34 minutes and finished with five points and three rebounds.
Before the game, Penn State announced that 6-11 forward Andrew Ott has officially transferred into the program from Villanova. He will begin practicing later this week but will not be eligible to play in games until late December.
Sparked by a promotion to get 10,000 students in the arena, the turnout for this game was solid (10,956). The students were loud, but there were not quite 10,000 of them. The estimated student turnout was 6,000.
Penn State plays host to Michigan State at 8 p.m. Saturday.