Dealing with foul trouble for most of Saturday’s game at the Bryce Jordan Center, Ohio State’s prolific scorer Deshaun Thomas had an off day.
Thomas, who entered the game leading the Big Ten in scoring with 20.5 points per game, spent just nine minutes on the court in the first half and never got into a rhythm offensively, scoring a season-low 11 points on the day.
“If you told me we were going to hold Deshaun Thomas to 11 points, I’d say we were going to be in the game, and maybe with a chance to win,” Nittany Lions coach Patrick Chambers said.
Despite being down by double-digits for the majority of the game, the Lions (8-12, 0-8 Big Ten) clawed with the Buckeyes (15-4, 5-2 Big Ten) in a 65-51 loss.
However, the Buckeyes’ fluid ball movement generated open looks and they capitalized — something that has eluded the Lions in conference play.
Penn State — which is last in the Big Ten in shooting percentage — took care of the ball with only four turnovers and played quietly staunch defense, but converted less than 30 percent of their shots in the first half.
The Lions’ chances of an upset were severely wounded when they went 11 minutes without a field goal in the first period.
Per usual, D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall led Penn State with 31 combined points, but freshman Brandon Taylor converted just 1-of-8 3-point attempts and sophomore Ross Travis was held to zero points.
“Usually when you miss shots and you're a young kid, you come down with your head down, have bad body language and you don't defend the next possession,” Chambers said. “I felt like we didn't do that. I feel like we're close, if we can just get a third scorer. I feel like we’re close.”
And while hitting shots was an issue, sticking around with the No. 14-ranked Buckeyes wasn’t.
Despite poor shooting, solid defense on Penn State’s part sneakily kept them within striking distance throughout the game.
While the Lions faced a double-digit deficit for all but 25 seconds in the second half, plays like Donovon Jack’s long two-point jumper with 10:34 remaining re-energized the crowd on hand for Coaches vs. Cancer Band Together Day.
However, Ohio State gradually controlled the game late in the second half, nailing 11 consecutive free throws in the final seven minutes.
“When [Penn State] went to the fouling, knocking those [free throws] down was kind of what finished the game off for us,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “…Anytime they’re fouling and you step up and make two, it really helps your cause.”