Ohio State Basketball 2008-2009
Buckeyes make tourney chances better with win over Penn State
Ohio State vs Penn State
The Ohio State Buckeyes bolstered their chances of landing an NCAA Tournament bid on Tuesday night, defeating Penn State 73-59 at Value City Arena in Columbus to snap a three-game losing streak and climb into a four-way tie for fourth place in the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes (18-8 overall, 8-7 Big Ten) started strong and finished strong, roaring out to an early 19-2 lead and then closing the game with a 32-13 run after Penn State (19-9, 8-7) had pulled in front 46-41 with 12:38 left.
“I thought our guys did a great job,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. “We were much better defending and rebounding. Penn State hit some incredible shots to get back into it, but our guys did a good job staying in composure throughout the game.”
Four Ohio State players scored in double figures, including junior guards P.J. Hill and Jeremie Simmons, who traded roles for the game on the request of Simmons.
“I talked to Coach yesterday about P.J. (Hill) starting,” Simmons said. “I felt like I would be more productive coming off the bench. P.J. stepped up.”
Hill, making his first start as a Buckeye, established a career high with 13 points. Simmons, who had started the first 25 games of the season, came off the bench Tuesday to lead Ohio State with 14 points.
“Both he and P.J. were very effective,” Matta said about Simmons and Hill. “Penn State wasn’t going to guard them and focused on Evan (Turner) and Jon (Diebler). P.J. had some drive and kicks that were very effective.”
Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis acknowledged that the Nittany Lions' strategy was to try to stop Turner, a sophomore who is the Buckeyes' leading scorer with an average of 16.7 points per game.
“Our plan was to take Turner out and make someone else take shots,” DeChellis said. “We hadn’t seen the consistency from Simmons and Hill like we did tonight.”
Simmons made 5 of 9 field-goal attempts, including 4 of 7 from three-point range. Hill, meanwhile, finished 5 of 8 from the field, including 2 of 4 from long distance. Turner was held to six points on 1 of 4 shooting, but he also contributed eight assists and six rebounds.
Freshman guard William Buford added 11 points for the Buckeyes, while freshman center B.J. Mullens finished with 13 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots.
“I thought just with the flow of the game everyone gave us something at some point in the game,” Matta said.
“I think we had energy on both ends, offensively and defensively,” said Hill. “I think we executed the game plan well and it seemed to work for us. Everyone really stepped up tonight. We tried a new zone, which was just a little more man-to-man. We tried to match up against their shooters and key players, the same way they tried to take Evan out of the game.”
Jamelle Cornley led Penn State with 11 points. The Nittany Lions also got 10 points each from Talor Battle, Stanley Pringle and Andrew Jones, whose layup with the shot clock winding down gave Penn State a 46-41 lead with 12:38 remaining.
Ohio State's Simmons nailed a three-pointer from the left corner to put the Buckeyes ahead to stay at 51-49 with 8:35 left. Turner followed with his first field goal of the game, a 5-footer from the right baseline. Mullens then scored six consecutive points on a layup, two free throws and another drive to the basket to increase Ohio State's lead to 59-49 with 4:55 remaining.
With the victory, the Buckeyes moved into a tie with Penn State, Minnesota and Wisconsin for fourth place in the Big Ten. Ohio State will close out the regular season with road games at Purdue (on Saturday, Feb. 28) and Iowa (on Tuesday, March 3) followed by the home finale against Northwestern (on Sunday, March 8).
The Big Ten Tournament will be held March 12-15 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
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