They were up by as many as 15, but settled to win by four. Ohio State survives Penn State’s late second half surge to win Thursday at the Schott.
When the clock struck 9 p.m., however, fans in Indiana and Iowa who wanted to watch the second game of the Big Ten double-header had to wait and wait and wait and wait some more.
By the time the handshake line was taking place in front of the scorer’s table, 2 hours and 24 minutes had passed since tip-off.
It took so long that it was like reading James Michener’s novel Hawaii or watching Ben Hur.
The Buckeyes somehow had defeated the Lions 74-70 despite 18 turnovers, getting picked for 12 steals and giving up 40 points in the paint before an announced crowd of 15,824 at The Schott,
The outcome wasn’t settled until C.J. Jackson, who had one of the worst nights of his career with five turnovers, made two free throws for the four-point difference with 19.1 seconds left.
“Whew, I need a nap,’’ Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “That was a rugged Big Ten fight, that’s for sure.’’
It was a lot more than that.
Officials Terry Wymer, Larry Scirotto and Steve McJunkins upset the spectators so much in calling 42 fouls and having to stop play numerous times to review plays that it was in their best interests to hit the drive-through and not look back on the way out of town.
The Buckeyes led by 15 points going into the final five minutes of the first half, but were caught flat-footed by a half-court press and actually found themselves trailing seven minutes into the second half.
“I mean, they’re long and athletic and it’s a good press,’’ junior guard Andre Wesson said. “We really didn’t walk over it too much in practice, but we should have handled it much better. It kind of jumped us.’’
Holtmann pinned blame on himself for not being able to handle the press.
“We did not attack the press very well and that’s my fault,’’ he said. “I should have had our guys better prepared for that. But give our guys credit. I thought they made gutsy, gutsy plays and finished the game like we needed to.’’
This is not the same Penn State team that beat Ohio State three times last season, costing it a shot at a Big Ten regular-season championship.
Yet the Lions match up so well that Holtmann knew it would be another jousting match.
“Our guys showed great will and just stayed with it,’’ he said. “They tried to make one more play. I thought we played a little smarter down the stretch than in other games.’’
Freshman guard Luther Muhammad led Ohio State with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists. Jackson and Andre Wesson each had 15 points. Wesson had 10 rebounds.
They had to come up big because, of course, 6-foot-9 Kaleb Wesson was going to be one of the odd men out with a quick whistle. He got two fouls in the first half and fouled out with 1:45 remaining in playing 18 minutes, 55 seconds.
“It was another tough game,’’ Muhammad said. “Coach was telling us we had to match their intensity and come out playing hard than them. We couldn’t let anyone out-tough us playing at home.
“They definitely took us down to the wire, and that’s going to help us for the future. That’s why you play the game – for games like these. They definitely pushed us and put us up to the test.’’
The game was so bizarre that there was even a problem with footing as the hockey ice underneath the court made the boards sweat. Students with mops got a lot of face time.
Here’s a for instance with regard to the absurdity of it all:
With 4:17 left, Jackson muffed catching a pass out top, and the ball went out of bounds.
Yet 23 seconds later, he had a steal and lay-up to give Ohio State (15-7, 5-6) a 64-61 lead.
Jackson was not finished with the bizarre. On the following possession, the shot clock was ticking down and he found himself behind the three-point line and closely guarded.
What he did was invent a shot by getting the Penn State defender airborne with a juke. The problem was Jackson still couldn’t release the ball the conventional way, so he underhanded the ball into the hoop from 17 feet out for a 66-61 lead with 3:15 left.
Officials not only reviewed whether he got the shot off, but a scrum underneath the basket involving Buckeyes center Kaleb Wesson and Lions center John Harrar.
Harrar was charged with a flagrant one foul, and Wesson made both free throws for a seven-point lead.
“I’m proud of my guys,’’ Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “We got down by 15 and went down in the second half, and we just kept fighting back. We had our chances. We fouled them too much. We’ve got to learn how to play hard and play together without fouling. Then we’ve got to be able to finish games. I thought we got some good looks down the stretch. We’ll learn from this. There are no moral victories, but I thought we got better tonight.’’
On most nights, that little spurt would have been the impetus for Ohio State to begin closing out the game.
Ah, but forward Josh Reaves got the fourth of his five steals and dunked, Myles Dread hit a three-pointer and Rasir Bolton made two free throws in rapid-fire order for the Lions.
Reaves then smothered Andre Wesson in the backcourt for a steal and drove in for another jam for a 70-69 Penn State lead with 1:35 remaining.
By then, the teams were more than a little tired of one another, and Ohio State guard Keyshawn Woods and Penn State guard Jamari Wheeler started hollering at each other going into a timeout.
Of course, they were given technical fouls. Wymer, Scirotto and McJunkins weren’t about to let anything short of a sneeze get by without blowing their whistles.
The Buckeyes took a 71-70 lead with 1:03 left when Kyle Young, who missed the previous four games with a lower right leg stress fracture, double-pumped and sneaked in a lay-up.
Young was a factor at the other end of the court on the ensuing possession when he blocked a shot by Lamar Stevens.
“He came in and didn’t miss a beat,’’ Andre Wesson said of Young. “He came in and was rebounding and blocking shots. When he said he was playing, I said, ‘You’re playing?’’’
Penn State was awarded possession after a scramble for the ball after Young’s block, but one second remained on the shot clock. Stevens’ catch and shoot after taking an inbound lob went in, but didn’t beat the shot clock.
Andre Wesson gave the Lions a chance to tie or win the game outright when he made one of two free throws with 29.7 seconds left.
Bolton blew past the coverage in driving the baseline, but botched a wide-open lay-up.
Jackson rebounded, was fouled and made the free throws.
“Honestly, we expected a game like this,’’ Holtmann said. “If you had told me, hey, this game is going to go down to the last minute and it’s going to be a one-possession game, I’d say, yep, I’d bet money on that.’’