Game Grades: Ohio State
Penn State continued their dominance against Ohio State this season as they knocked off the Buckeyes for the third time at Madison Square Garden Friday night.
A Josh Reaves dunk with three seconds left gave the Nittany Lions a 69-68 win and sent them to their first Big Ten tournament semifinal since 2011.
Another tournament game without Mike Watkins, and another huge win to keep the season alive. In the second start of his career, John Harrar played valuable minutes for the Nittany Lions in rotation with Julian Moore.
While the field goal shooting, in general, wasn’t anything special, Penn State drilled nine threes at a 48 percent rate. Tony Carr hit four shots from past the arc, and Shep Garner hit three of six threes of his own.
Carr led the team with 25 points on 9-17 shooting. Lamar Stevens came in a distant second with 15 points, and Nazeer Bostick chipped in five off the bench.
Penn State was also able to outrebound Ohio State 40-32 in the game. Stevens and Reaves got seven rebounds each, and even the guards got rebounds as Carr came down with six.
Free throw shooting has been something that Penn State has struggled with late in close games, but a cool 16-20 from the charity stripe gave the Nittany Lions the points they needed to pull out the win.
There’s really not much more you can ask of this offense other than production in the paint, but when the perimeter players are knocking down their shots all night, a lot of pressure comes off of the backs of Harrar and Moore to perform, and it showed in this game.
There’s only so much you can do to stop the Big Ten Player of the Year from doing damage in a big tournament game, and it was Reaves’ job to contain Keita Bates-Diop.
The First-Team Big Ten All-Defensive team selection kept Bates-Diop modest for most of the game, holding him to only two threes in the game and 50 percent shooting. More importantly, the rest of the defense picked up the slack and defended the perimeter very well. The Buckeyes shot 35 percent from three, and outside of Bates-Diop’s 25 points, the next highest scorer was only held to ten.
For a team missing the Big Ten’s second-best rebounder, the Nittany Lions were able to keep up on the defensive boards, holding a 25-22 advantage in that statistic.
The one glaring stat that stands out is Ohio State’s 16 points in the paint in the second half. The last hole that Penn State needs to fill for a real shot at playing for a Big Ten title.
All the pressure has been on Pat Chambers to perform this season, and he is silencing many of his doubters in the second half of the 2017-18 campaign. The Nittany Lions have won eight of their last twelve dating all the way back to late-January. Guiding a team with only two seniors, Chambers has an opportunity to play his way into the NCAA tournament.
Dealing with injuries is never easy, and it’s particularly not easy on the coaching staff depleted with experience on the block. For the first time the entire season, Moore is seeing an increased role in the offense, and Harrar has had to make his first collegiate starts in the biggest games of the season. So far, he has kept this team afloat in the block.
Finally, there are traditionally two schools of thought when the game is on the line and a coach has timeouts to use.
Either use a timeout to draw up a play and risk slowing down the team's momentum, or let the play continue and trust the players on the floor to get the job done. Chambers has stuck to his guns by keeping timeouts in his pocket in late game situations, and it’s generally paid off. Both times when the game was on the line against Ohio State, his players have had the awareness to win in the clutch.
Just like this game and the one before it, Penn State has the chance to continue their run to the NCAA tournament, and Chambers has to keep his team grounded and focused for the tough challenges that lie ahead.
Joe Skinner is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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