“Spahn and Sain and pray for rain” was a poem written in 1948 about the pennant-winning Atlanta Braves. The poem was inspired by the two aces of their staff, which carried an otherwise mediocre team to greatness. In basketball it doesn’t work that well, especially when you only have two “really good” players trying to carry your team. Penn State’s lack of talent behind Jermaine Marshall and D.J. Newbill was ultimately exposed by a deep Ohio State team, and the Nittany Lions fell to the #14 ranked Buckeyes 65-51.
B1G leading scorer DeShaun Thomas came out hot, making the first two field goals for Ohio State on wide open shots coming off screens. When Penn State adjusted with a 2-3 zone defense, Sam Thompson stepped up and hit some big shots for the Buckeyes. Fortunately for the Lions, they also came out shooting well, starting out 4 for 6, and it was 11-9 Ohio State going into the first timeout with 15:01 left in the first half.
After a D.J. Newbill lay-up tied the game, Penn St missed 13 field goals in a row, a 1-16 stretch that should have put the game out of the reach for the Nittany Lions. However, Ohio State went cold at the same time, with the teams exchanging 11 missed shots in a row. With 7:56 left in the first half, Deshaun Thomas fouled Sasa Borovnjak in transition for his 2nd foul and was forced to the bench. Sasa made 1 of 2 free throws to cut the lead to 19-12, but that was the closest they would be the rest of the afternoon.
Ohio State’s man-to-man defense was suffocating the Nittany Lions offense, forcing long and often contested three point shots. Say what you want about Brandon Taylor, but he certainly didn’t shy away from the challenge. The freshman went 0-5 from 3-point range in the first half, including 0-3 within 80 seconds, and 0-2 on shots from his hometown in Tabernacle, NJ. He ended the game 1-8.
As James Naismith was rolling in his grave, Nick Colella amazingly had a chance to get Penn St within 9 points with 1:28, but missed two of three. The score at the half was 29-18 Ohio State, but the Lions poor shooting prevented them from capitalizing on a huge opportunity to get even closer. With Deshaun Thomas on the bench, Penn State was outscored 9-7. It was the 6th time they have failed to score 20 in a half, while OSU showed their depth, as 8 of 9 players scored in the first 20 minutes.
After an emotional halftime feature about Newbill’s mother passing from cancer this past September, the BJC crowd was ready to lead their team to an upset. D.J. came out a different player, forcing his way into the lane and making plays. He scored or assisted on the first 12 Nittany Lion points, keeping Penn St close through the first ten minutes of the half.
Unfortunately, it was too little too late for Penn State. After four straight possessions that Newbill was able to get into the lane and try to make a play, Marshall air-balled a rushed three point field goal. Missed free throws (12-33 for the game) and awful three point shooting (4-17, including many that weren’t even close) kept Penn State from ever really being a threat.
Coach Chambers used various defenses throughout the game to keep Ohio State off balance offensively. Utilizing a 2-3 zone, 1-3-1 trap, and man-to-man, Penn State was still down 17 with 5:58 left in the game. Finally, Chambers called for the full-court press that led to a 7-1 Penn State run, but D.J. Newbill was blocked on a lay-up attempt to get the lead down to single digits.
Penn State did well keeping Deshaun Thomas off his game, but unlike the Nittany Lions, who have nobody other than Marshall and Newbill who can create offense, Ohio State’s other players picked up their game. Sophomore Sam Thompson had 16, two points off his season high, and didn’t miss until there was 2:52 left in the game (and Ohio State got the offensive rebound anyway). Lenzelle Smith, Jr had a great overall game with 11 points (7-8 FT shooting) and 8 rebounds.
With 2:11 left in the game, Marshall blocked a Aaron Craft (sneaky good game with 7 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, but only 1 steal) lay-up and Penn State called a timeout with the ball, down 10. I was shocked to hear the cheers coming from the Bryce Jordan Center crowd. Penn State basketball still gets too excited about just being in a game, instead of excited about winning a game. We have become the Temple football to Ohio State basketball’s team, this was their 18th straight win over Penn State hoops.
Before the game, the blueprint to beat the Buckeyes was simple; the Lions would have to contain Thomas, limit their own mistakes, and be efficient on offense. Thomas was held to 11 points (4-13 shooting), half his season average and his lowest output of the year. Penn State turned the ball over only four times, had almost twice as many blocks, and more assists than OSU. In the end, it was all for naught and as a last second three point shot by Kevin Montminy missed badly, the Nittany Lions even failed to cover the 13.5 point spread.
See you again in Iowa City on Thursday, January 31st as Penn State tries to avoid going 0-for-January.