Let's just get this out of the way:
Ohio State is a very good basketball team that's getting better. Pencil them into your Elite Eight. Go do it, now.
That, above all else, is why the Buckeyes beat the Nittany Lions 75-67 Wednesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center. So take whatever criticism of how Penn State played with that in mind. There wasn't much the Lions were going to do regardless.
That said, there were a lot of...shall we say...puzzling developments on the Penn State side tonight, ones I'm hoping we'll hear more about in the days to come. It was a weird game in a lot of ways, so let's get to it.
Most of the first half was played pretty tight on the scoreboard. Both teams traded the lead until about the 7:00 to play mark in the first. That's when things got a little nutty. The Buckeyes went on a bit of a run, fueld by multiple Penn State fouls and turnovers, and took the lead 24-19. It was obvious Penn State was losing a little composure.
But instead of taking a timeout to calm things down, the Penn State bench decided it was better to take a technical by complaining about the refs. At that point, there was an argument to be made that the Lions might have been getting squeezed, down 7-1 in fouls, but it was nothing egregious. There was really no reason to hand the Buckeyes two points already down by five. The move seemed completely out of left field.
But in the blink of an eye, Penn State rallied to close the half down by only four, so...it worked?
Don't get me wrong. I understand the team rallying slash...
...effect a T can have on a team, but at that point in time, there was really no reason for it to the outside observer. The refs weren't bad, heck, they weren't even really that questionable. The truth is, Penn State had no post game and hadn't been in the position to draw the fouls Ohio State had, so what was Lewis Preston complaining about?
Coming out of the half, Ohio State proceeded to blow the doors off Penn State, ahead 49-32 by the 13:52 mark in the second half. Then it got nutty again.
On the ensuing three trips, David Jackson and Talor Battle started raining threes on Ohio State. By 11:54 left, the Lions were down only eight after a lightning quick 9-0 run. Penn State continued to storm back, drawing to within two with a little over five minutes to play.
Unfortunately after that, Evan Turner took over. He went on a personal 8-2 run to put the Buckeyes up 67-59 with a little more than two minutes left to effectively seal the Buckeye win.
He's a National Player of the Year candidate for a reason folks.
But there was still one nutty moment left. Up eight points with the game basically over, David Lighty fouled Chris Babb on a three point attempt that connected. Rule number one in basketball is to never foul the jump shooter. Rule number two is to not foul when you're trying to close out a win. David Lighty did both on the same play. I've seen plenty of 4-point plays in my time, but rarely do you see one in that situation. Puzzling and nutty (If I can legally say that again).
Evan Turner is a great basketball player. Period. I've never been his biggest fan, but he's grown on me this season. At points, he almost seems disinterested all while doing things just about any other college basketball player can't. It's been a pleasure to see the kid grow this season, and it'll be fun to see him in March.
Offensively, Penn State played pretty darn well. The Lions got nice efforts out of Battle, Jackson, Jeff Brooks, and Andrew Jones, not to mention fair efforts from freshmen Bill Edwards and Tim Frazier off the bench. There were points where things bogged down, but to claw back from a 17 point deficit in second half against a team as good as Ohio State was impressive and encouraging. Overall, Penn State shot 44%, which is a welcomed sight after some of the other performances we've seen this season.
Penn State played another great game on the glass, outrebounding the Buckeyes 29-27 and holding them to five offensive boards. If Penn State is going to turn things around in 2010-2011, it'll all start in the rebounding department. It's been a strength for them this season, but there's still room for improvement, and if they can do that, they'll be a better team next season because of it.
Not a great night for the staff. The T was just...weird. I was also perplexed that the coaches left Tim Frazier in at the end of the game. He's not much of a shooting threat, and Battle and Chris Babb were already out there as guards. Why bench Jeff Brooks, who to that point had been playing pretty well? Like I said before. Puzzling.
Chris Babb seems to want nothing to do with the ball in pressure situations. Over the course of the last couple of games, he's passed up what could have been key shots to give the ball to Battle, who's often being doubled, and isn't in much of a position to shoot when he gets the ball.
At points tonight, the players looked downright confused. Sitting on court level, it was readily apparent during one first half possession that at least three Lions had no idea what they were doing. Brooks gave Frazier a funny look. Frazier gave Andrew Ott one, and Ott, too, looked perplexed at the entire exchange. Who knows, but that can't be good.
To be continued...