Prior to Wednesday's trip to No. 13 Ohio State, the Nittany Lions were riding a string of nine defeats to start the Big Ten campaign. They had blown huge leads and small leads. They had fought well for 20 minutes before collapsing in the second half. They had fallen in overtime.
But Wednesday offered a new recipe for disaster.
Against a surging Buckeye outfit that was not only undefeated at home, but also had won those 13 games by an average margin of 27 points, PSU trailed 60-49 with six minutes to go an appeared to be on the verge of being run out of Value City Arena.
In position to pull off a monster upset -- again -- the Lions did not score the rest of the way in falling, 75-62. Penn State is now 8-14 overall and 0-10 in the Big Ten, matching its worst start ever in the conference (2003). This time, the old rally-then-run-out-of-gas routine proved to be its undoing.
Ohio State improved to 17-6 and 7-3 thanks in large part to guard Evan Turner, who finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
The Big Ten's leading scorer, Battle went blow for blow with Turner for most of the game, finishing with 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. He had only two turnovers, but one of them came at a critical time.
After Jackson got Penn State within three late, guard Jon Diebler hit his only bucket of the game for OSU -- a long 3-pointer. Now trailing 68-62, Battle threw a bad pass at the other end that was stolen by David Lighty.
The Buckeyes went on the break and when Turner went to finish, Lion guard Chris Babb wrapped him up. Babb was hit with an intentional foul with 49 seconds remaining, giving Turner two free throws (he made one) and possession. Another quick foul put William Buford at the stripe and he made both for a 71-62 lead that iced it.
Adding injury to insult, Penn State played the entire game without starting center Andrew Ott, who was out with an unspecified shoulder problem. Also, starting freshman guard Bill Edwards left the game after nine minutes -- having logged no stats beyond a turnover -- due to an unspecified ankle injury.
Forward David Jackson was the only other Lion in doubles with 12 points.
Penn State played an entire game -- that's 200 man minutes logged -- without a single blocked shot or steal.
For all of the talk of how PSU has been competitive during this slide, since leading Wisconsin 33-25 at the half in Madison Jan. 24, the Nittany Lions have been outscored in six straight periods by an overall margin of 195-146. That includes overtime vs. the Badgers.
In the last five full halves Penn State has played, it has been outscored by an average margin of 35.2 to 27.
The Lions look to avoid breaking the school record for worst Big Ten starter when Minnesota visits Saturday. The game tips at 2 p.m.