Undefeated no more!
With home games against Indiana and Illinois in the near future, it looked like the Buckeyes were going to take a perfect Big Ten record into a marquee matchup against Purdue on February 3rd.
While there is no question that Ohio State has put together an impressive season, there has been speculation whether or not the Buckeyes have been overachieving. Regardless, I don’t think many saw this one coming.
The Nittany Lions controlled the majority of the game and simply outplayed OSU for the most part. Penn State put the pedal to the metal in the second half and appeared to put the Buckeyes out of reach.
Tony Carr knocked down a jumper with under seven minutes remaining to give the Nittany Lions a convincing 12-point lead. Penn State maintained a nine-point lead to nearly the two minute mark as well.
But, just when it looked over, Keita Bates-Diop struck fire. The forward sank three 3-pointers in the final two minutes to bring the Buckeye faithful to its feet. This included a game-tying three with only five seconds remaining in regulation.
All of a sudden, it looked like the game was headed to overtime with OSU in the driver’s seat. However, with time expiring, Tony Carr banked in a triple from nearly half court to dramatically win the game for Penn State.
Let’s see what we learned from the absolute thriller in Columbus.
What We Learned
1. Josh Reaves May be Penn State’s X-Factor
A 14-8 overall record and 4-5 record in Big Ten play is far from something to be disappointed in for Pat Chambers. However, similar to Illinois, the Nittany Lions are one of those Big Ten teams that feels like it really could have won more games to this point.
For example, in its five Big Ten losses Penn State has lost to Wisconsin by one, Maryland by six, Indiana by four, Minnesota by 11 in overtime, and Northwestern by nine. Given that, I’m sure the Nittany Lions feel that they are better than a 4-5 team.
Penn State has been searching for something to translate their frequent close losses into victories. Well, there is a good chance that junior guard Josh Reaves is that answer.
Penn State lost all but one of the four consecutive games Reaves recently missed. In his return to the lineup against Ohio State, Reaves contributed 10 points on an effective 4-7 shooting mark from the floor.
Besides averaging 10.8 points and nearly five rebounds per game, Reaves noticeably brings energy and a spark to the floor that the Nittany Lions lack without him.
Regardless of the fact that Penn State almost blew this game, the outcome against Ohio State proves what Reaves can do for the Nittany Lions.
2. Buckeyes Fatigue Showed Tonight
There is no excuse for Ohio State losing to Penn State, a team it without a doubt should have beaten.
However, it’s worth noting that the Buckeyes are in the midst of a ridiculous stretch right now. The Penn State game was Ohio State’s fourth game in nine days and third in only six days.
It took the Buckeyes a while to get started and they looked asleep at the wheel for portions of this game. Battling fatigue is something all teams have to do, but you have to wonder whether or not the outcome would have been the same if Ohio State had proper rest prior to the game.
After all, the Nittany Lions had four full days of rest heading into Columbus.
3. Mark February 15th Down on Your Calendars Folks
The show we witnessed from two magnificent players in Keita Bates-Diop and Tony Carr was one of the ages.
If you missed this game you are in luck. The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions will butt heads once again in mid-February.
Obviously what Bates-Diop did in the final two minutes, along with Carr’s game-winner, was enough to make this game an instant classic. But, the two were going at it for the whole game.
Carr finished with a game-high 28 points and only sat on the bench for one minute. The guard’s shooting was lethal in Columbus. Carr knocked down 10-14 shots from the floor and 4-5 threes.
Similarly, Bates-Diop added 25 points and went 8-13 from the floor. Bates-Diop knocked down four 3-pointers as well.
It will be exciting to see if the two stars can put forth similar efforts when Ohio State gets its chance at redemption against Penn State.
This was hands down the most significant victory of the season for Pat Chambers’ squad. With Reaves back in the lineup, the Nittany Lions have some serious momentum.
Even though Ohio State is clearly capable of playing better, the simple fact is that the Nittany Lions looked really, really good.
With the pressure of an undefeated conference record gone, the Buckeyes will have a nice chance to bounce back at home against the struggling Illini next Tuesday.