Men's basketball | Ohio State 65, Penn State 51: New twist on offense
With Thomas limited to a season-low 11 points, Thompson, Smith contribute in road victory
Lenzelle Smith Jr. of Ohio State drives past D.J. Newbill of Penn State. Smith finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Coach Thad Matta has been looking for more offense from Ohio State, and so have the players themselves. Looking for more, and to be more, than just Deshaun Thomas.
They got it yesterday, in a 65-51 victory over Penn State in the Bryce Jordan Center, and it made no difference that it came at the expense of a team that has not won a Big Ten game this season.
“Good road win,” sophomore Sam Thompson said. “Whether it’s pretty or ugly, a road win in the Big Ten is a road win in the Big Ten. We came to State College to get a win on the road, and that’s what we did.”
Thompson scored 16 points, two off his career high, and also had six rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and two steals for the 14th-ranked Buckeyes (15-4, 5-2). Thompson helped pick up the slack for Thomas, the Big Ten scoring leader whose outside shot was not falling, who was double-teamed in the post and who finished with a season-low 11 points.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. also helped. His 11 points included making 7 of 8 free throws in the second half as the Buckeyes maintained a double-figure lead for the last 16:47 against an opponent that refused to quit. Smith also had eight rebounds to lead a 39-25 board advantage that limited the Nittany Lions, who missed 30 of 47 field-goal attempts, to only two offensive rebounds.
“We need Deshaun to play well. It makes us a better basketball team,” Matta said.
But, “The more, the merrier as far as (the offense) having a flow,” Matta said. “(Defenses) do a lot of things differently to try to slow Deshaun down, and today guys made plays off of him.”
Jermaine Marshall scored 16 points and D.J. Newbill 15 for Penn State (8-12, 0-8).
The Nittany Lions had the score tied less than seven minutes in before they went more than 11 minutes without a field goal, helping the Buckeyes open a 24-12 lead. But after Thomas picked up his second foul and sat out the final 7:56 of the first half, Ohio State was unable to expand its advantage against Penn State’s changing defenses and traps, and that continued in the second half.
Ahead by 11 points at halftime, Ohio State scored on four consecutive possessions to lead 43-27 with 13:34 remaining. But Penn State trimmed the margin to 11 with 8:14 to play.
The Buckeyes rebuilt the lead to 55-38 with 6:05 remaining, but again the Nittany Lions rallied within 11 with 4:21 left and then 10 with 2:41 to go. But they came no closer as Ohio State scored on three of its last four possessions, including four free throws.
The Buckeyes made 15 of 17 free throws in the second half and 19 of 23 for the game, their most in more than a month. They finished with only two more field goals than free throws.
“We tried to mix our defenses up, tried to mix coverages up on ball screens and in the post on Deshaun Thomas,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “We made it very difficult for them to score the basketball. Give them credit. Give Aaron Craft credit for facilitating their offense.”
Craft had five assists and one turnover. The Buckeyes had only eight turnovers, six fewer than they averaged in their previous five games.
Thompson was the beneficiary. He made 6 of 7 shots from the field, including both of his three-pointers. He came into the game shooting 26.7 percent from behind the arc but said extra practice sessions that Matta has scheduled in recent weeks have helped.
“We come in after (classes) and shoot literally hundreds of jump shots, hundreds of pull-ups, free throws, all that,” Thompson said. “Guys are more comfortable. Guys know where their shots are coming from and know they’ve made that shot literally thousands of times in a given week. That’s definitely helped us a lot.”