Talk about a Saturday morning hangover.
Coming off the biggest win of the Mike Rhoades era, Penn State men’s basketball started out more than sluggish in Columbus. Ohio State easily jumped out to a 16-0 (!) lead thanks to fast play from the Buckeyes and abysmal shooting from the Nittany Lions.
Penn State missed its first 11 shots before Jameel Brown finally got his team on the board with a triple. It seemed like a lack of energy was the story of the Nittany Lions’ first 10 minutes. A Saturday noon game isn’t run of the mill, but that irregularity is hardly an excuse for how un-ready to play the team looked. Besides, Mike Rhoades’ crew played with plenty of energy at the noon Palestra game just two weeks ago.
Still, Penn State wasn’t completely out of the game heading into the locker room. Ohio State started 0-for-8 from three-point range and could not dominate the rebounding battle, holding a mere five-board edge at halftime. The Buckeyes led by 14 at halftime and Penn State shot 22% from the field in the first half. The Nittany Lions should have been losing by much more — could they complete another improbable comeback?
No. Not this time.
It was more of the same in the second half as Penn State went on to make just 37% of its field goals, compared to a 46% clip from the Buckeyes.
While the game took on the vibe of a lazy Saturday morning, Penn State continued to play hard. This group battles for Mike Rhoades, and that’s becoming a bit of a theme this season despite mediocre success. The Nittany Lions went on an 11-1 run and brought things back within 10 near the two-minute mark, but the late surge was not enough. This game would have been a different story if they kept things more balanced coming out of the gate.
Player of the Game
Puff Johnson - 13 points, 7 rebounds, +4 in 19 minutes
Johnson played a big part in the Nittany Lions’ last-ditch effort and was one of three Nittany Lions with a positive +/- split. He’s been unable to fully find his rhythm since coming to Happy Valley, so perhaps this game could be a springboard for him.
Mahaffey’s Revenge - Well, that one hurts a bit. Evan Mahaffey put up a career-high 16 points in the second game against his former team. He added five rebounds in two blocks in 31 minutes and is becoming a key piece of this Ohio State squad.
Marvin Harrison Jr. - Even during a basketball game, you can’t escape the Buckeye’s tirade over the Nittany Lions on the gridiron. Heisman finalist Marvin Harrison Jr. was in the house to remind every Penn State fan that Ohio State has been a bit untouchable.
Homesick - Mike Rhoades has yet to win a true road game during his time at Penn State. Winning on the road in the Big Ten is very hard, but it’s something you simply have to do if you want to go dancing.
Penn State will have a week off before hosting Minnesota next Saturday, January 27, for the annual THON game. The game will tip off at 6:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.