Penn State (7-11, 4-10) dropped its third straight game with a 92-82 loss to No. 4 Ohio State (18-4, 12-4) on Thursday night at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The Nittany Lions had one of their best offensive games of the season, shooting 45% from the field and 42.9% from 3, while scoring 82 points, the most they’ve scored since December 30 at Indiana. However, they were out-dueled by a better shooting performance by the Buckeyes, who shot 56.6% from the field and a ridiculous 55.0% from 3.
In what has been a frequent occurrence this season, Penn State held an eight-point lead in the second half, leading 59-51 with just under 15 minutes remaining in the game. Following that mark, Ohio State outscored the Nittany Lions 41-23, a stretch which was started by a 15-0 Buckeye run that went for nearly four minutes of game time.
Ohio State sophomore forward E.J. Liddell led all scorers with 23 points, shooting 8/12 from the field and 2/2 from 3. Buckeyes’ junior guard Duane Washington Jr. also chipped into the effort with 21 points, on 6/9 from the field and 4/5 from 3.
For Penn State, Myreon Jones led the team with 18 points. Izaiah Brockington, Seth Lundy, and Jamari Wheeler also all scored in double figures, with 12, 12, and 11 points, respectively.
The Buckeyes held a lead for nearly the entire first half, but the Nittany Lions were right there, as both teams were red-hot shooting. In the first half, Ohio State shot 65.4% from the field, and 66.7% from 3, while Penn State shot 53.6% from the field and 53.8% from 3. While neither team kept up that shooting pace, it was Penn State that cooled down a lot more in the second half.
Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell, the team’s best player, was in foul trouble for the entire second half. That being said, the Nittany Lions were unable to capitalize on that, as John Harrar was also in foul trouble. Harrar ended up fouling out of the game with 2:51 left in the game when the score was 80-75 Ohio State. With the lack of Penn State’s big-man depth, this was a major problem the entire second half.
After its win against Maryland on February 5, Penn State was firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble as it snuck into ESPN Joe Lunardi's First Four Out.’ That being said, the team has been in a free-fall since then, dropping games to two of the worst teams in the conference, Michigan State and Nebraska, before ultimately dropping Thursday’s game against Ohio State.
With just five games remaining, Penn State would need to go 5-0, or win the Big Ten Tournament, in order to have any shot at making the NCAA Tournament. With No. 11 Iowa next up on the schedule, it looks like the Nittany Lions’ ceiling is the NIT, which is confirmed to be happening this year despite the pandemic.
Penn State will play Iowa on the road at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, February 21, at 5 p.m. ET.
- Penn State has been plagued by the same issue all season: closing games. It seems that every single game they play is close, and every single game has a blown second-half lead. The talent gap between Penn State and other Big Ten teams isn’t anywhere near what many people make it out to be.
- Assuming Penn State doesn’t go on a miraculous run to end the season, I don’t think that Jim Ferry will be back as head coach next season. Unless the new coach is a wizard in the transfer portal and a great recruiter, it may be a few years before the Nittany Lions are competitive again. After how long it took to finally get to the point they were in 2019-2020, that is a frustrating thought.
- John Harrar has evolved from a former Army Football commit, to a role player, to a legitimate starting center in the Big Ten. In what will likely be a forgotten season, the year he’s had has been nothing short of phenomenal. With no big-man depth, Harrar has carried a lot on his shoulders this season, and played extremely well against some of the best bigs in all of college basketball.
- Speaking of no big depth, Penn State brought in a 6’7’ small forward, Caleb Dorsey in the 2020 class. He has seen minimal playing time this season (6 total minutes). With five games left, Jim Ferry should give Dorsey a chance to play significant minutes. With the non-existent production Penn State has gotten without Harrar in the game, it doesn’t hurt to try Dorsey out as a small-ball center.
- Iowa will likely be rough next game with the way Penn State has played defense this season. Keep your fingers crossed.