Penn State has played pretty well in Big Ten play, at 3-3, they had won three of four coming into this game. The biggest key in that performance was the Lions’ lockdown defense making it tough for opponents. The other key, however, had been running better offense, making plays as they needed to when a comeback was in order, and simply finding open players who, most of the time, made their shots.
The first part of this was on full display in this game. Ohio State scored XX points below their average of XX. It was the offense that didn’t travel with the Lions, as getting points was harder than pulling teeth all afternoon. Part of that was not having Seth Lundy available for this game, and part of that was simply missing all the open shots they had.
For a team that plays as slow a pace as they do, making use of the clock is great to keep games close, but limiting opponent shots also limits your own. Taking advantage of every opportunity is paramount if you want to pull the road upset, and, for the Nittany Lions, they simply missing too many shots. A comeback bid is nigh impossible when you can’t make shots, play a slow pace, and the opponent builds a double-digit lead.
Like the last time they played Ohio State, the Nittany Lions started strong. They took a 10-4 lead to start, but that would be the last of the offensive efficiency for the Lions. Ohio State made the first of its runs, this one being an 8-0 run, that would erase Penn State lead, and the Buckeyes wouldn’t look back for the rest of the half.
From that point on, it was a matter of Ohio State getting up as high as 10, and Penn State trying to whittle the lead down. Almost with certainty, every time the Lions closed in, Ohio State would go on a run to go up 10 again. And almost with certainty, every time the Buckeyes went up 10, Penn State would whittle down the lead back down to as little as five.
Every time it seemed like Penn State would complete the comeback, Ohio State simply found a way to keep the Lions at arm’s distance. Down four of five, for a number of possessions, Penn State had an opportunity to close the game to one possession, and each time the Lions simply found a way give the ball away. Little by little, the seconds ticked away, and for an offense that needs 30 seconds to make a shot, having 30 seconds left in the game and a five point deficit was not the ideal position to be in as the game came to a close.
Four Factors Analysis
There really isn’t another way to describe this game other than “ugly.” Penn State did everything they could to make sure they stopped the Buckeyes, and it almost worked. Unfortunately, when you’re going to the line in nearly every possession, there isn’t much else you can do. Had Ohio State not missed as many free throws as they did, this game probably looks a lot different.
Player of the Game
On a day where the Lions couldn’t get anything offensively, it was the play of Jalen Pickett that kept the Lions in it the whole time. His 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks (!!), to go along with his 11 points, helped immensely in keeping the Lions in it throughout.
Of course Wheeler can shoot free throws now - All the things Wheeler sucked at before he transferred suddenly are strengths of his. Three point shot? Check. Free throws? Check. Not getting called for fouls when he probably should? Finally, check.
Keep doing it until it works - Sam Sessoms kept finding Jalanni White outside for wide open threes. White, unfortunately, kept missing them. There was a point in the second half where Sessoms and White had the same sequence, from the same drive, to the same spot. Both times the open three rimmed right out.
Lundy’s absence was felt - No one knows what would have happened if Lundy had played this game. But not having him available was evident as the Lions tried to get any consistency on offense. Let’s hope his absence is a one-time thing, as Penn State needs him down the stretch.
The schedule eases up considerably, as Penn State returns home to face Minnesota on Wednesday. The game begins a stretch where the Lions won’t face a ranked team again until February. Game tips off at 6:30 PM Eastern on the Big Ten Network.