Penn State Bests Ohio State on Senior Night
February 27th has been kind to Penn State the last two years, as they have upset Michigan and Ohio State respectively, both ending with fans storming the court.
Coming off a two-game losing streak, the Nittany Lions were able to pull off the upset and sweep the season series with Buckeyes, on Senior Night. The Lions picked up the dramatic 65-63 win on Thursday, to improve to 14-14 on the season.
Foul trouble was an issue for Ohio State, forcing star point guard, Aaron Craft, to sit out much of the first half and a few minutes of the second. Penn State was able to capitalize and get easy buckets without Craft’s tough perimeter defense. Craft finished with 10 points, in just 19 minutes of play.
During the postgame press conference, Ohio State Thad Matta said, “it killed us,” when asked about Craft’s absence during parts of the contest.
Ohio State started the game by jumping out to an early 10-2 lead, thanks to five points from their star guard, Craft.
However, the Buckeyes cooled down after their hot start and the Nittany Lions clawed their way back into the game. Craft picked up his 2nd foul with more than 10 minutes left in the half, sitting out the rest of the half and giving Penn State a prime opportunity to chip away at the lead.
Thad Matta’s squad took an 11-point lead with 8:54 left in the 1st half, their largest of the night, but the Lions responded with a run of their own and never looked back.
Penn State headed into halftime down just two points, 28-26, after a three-pointer by Tim Frazier. Frazier led all scorers in the 1st half with nine points, on just 2-7 shooting, but he knocked down all four of his attempts from the free-throw line. Frazier finished with 16 points on his Senior Night, one that prompted many feelings from the fifth- year guard.
“It was very emotional, I was holding back tears and fighting off emotions early in 1st half,” Frazier said.
The low scoring first half was an ugly one for both sides, as each team was plagued by turnovers and foul trouble. Ohio State was unable to capitalize from the foul line in the 1st half, shooting just 4-9 from the charity stripe. The Buckeyes made up for their struggles from the stripe by shooting 40% (4-10) from behind the three-point line. In contrast, the Nittany Lions managed to shoot just 28.6 percent (2-7) from the arc.
Penn State took their first lead of the game at the 15:10 mark, 36-35, on a Brandon Taylor three-pointer. The Buckeyes were able to knot up the game on three more occasions, but never retook the lead.
Ohio State was plagued again in the 2nd half by the continued foul trouble of Craft. With Craft out of the game, Ohio State’s attack lacked the urgency and efficiency of normal, leading to Penn State’s surge.
After a solid, but unspectacular first half, D.J. Newbill took over the second half, starting with hitting three free throws to tie the game at 33. Newbill scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half.
Even with the usual standout efforts from Newbill and Frazier, head coach Pat Chambers knew it would take the whole team to win this one.
“We lose together as a unit and we win together as a unit,” Chambers said after the game.
The Nittany Lions certainly got the win as a team, gaining much needed efforts from the likes of Geno Thorpe, Jordan Dickerson and Brandon Taylor.
Thorpe, the true freshman from Pittsburgh, put together his best performance of the season, scoring nine points and causing havoc on defense.
“Thorpe has been great, he stepped up to the occasion, making stops, deflections and pulling down rebounds, He really did a phenomenal job,” Frazier said of his young teammate.
Dickerson contributed a ferocious put-back slam and altered multiple shots, while Taylor was strong on the glass and hit the huge three early in the second half.
The Buckeyes did everything they could late in the contest to fight back against the Lions, but to no avail.
Leading scorer, LaQuinton Ross, scored 14 of his 19 points, 10 of them from the free- throw line, in the second half. However, Ohio State was ice cold from behind the arc, making just one three in seven attempts in the second.
The Buckeyes had two solid looks at the end of the game, both Lenzelle Smith Jr. three-pointers, but they both came up short.
Despite the solid looks, Chambers was happy his team forced the ball out of Craft’s hands.
“(Aaron) Craft is a winner, He makes winning plays. We wanted to take the ball out of his hands,” Chambers said.
The season sweep of the Buckeyes was the first since 1998 for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State hosts Wisconsin, at the Bryce Jordan Center, on Sunday afternoon. The game will serve as a fundraiser for former Penn State football player, Brandon Ream, who lost his battle to cancer in November. Tune into ComRadio for the coverage at 12 p.m.