Going into Columbus and beating No. 16 Ohio State was always going to be a tall task for Penn State. It was made that much taller during pregame when the team announced leading scorer Seth Lundy would missed the game because of an undisclosed absence.
The Nittany Lions (8-7, 3-4 Big Ten) struggled for much of the afternoon, falling to the Buckeyes (11-4, 5-2 Big Ten) a second time this season in a 61-56 defeat.
Too many stretches of cold shooting proved to be the difference as Ohio State held off the upset bid from the Lions. The Nittany Lions started brightly enough, using two Greg Lee buckets to propel them to an early 10-4 lead. The Buckeyes countered quickly with an 8-0 spurt, helped by a four-minute stretch where Penn State went without a field goal. Ohio State took that 12-10 lead at the 9:57 mark of the first half and never trailed again.
Penn State shot 39 percent from the field, including 27 percent from three. Ohio State actually shot it worse at 38.6 percent from the field and 25 percent from three, but a big difference was the Buckeyes' ability to get to the foul line. Ohio State was 24-of-36 at the charity stripe, while the Nittany Lions were just 8-of-14.
The short-handed Lions stayed afloat without Lundy, cutting the deficit to four a few different times in the second half after trailing by as many as 10, but couldn't turn critical offensive possessions into points.
Even though Lundy isn't a perfect player, he still makes Penn State a much better team when he's on the floor. It's unclear what his status is heading into midweek action against Minnesota.
Sam Sessoms replaced Lundy in the starting lineup and carried on from a good performance against Rutgers earlier this week. Sessoms led the Nittany Lions with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
Jalen Pickett didn't quite play at the level we've seen in recent weeks but did chip in with 11 points, 5 assists, 3 blocks and a pair of steals.
Greg Lee and John Harrar added 9 and 7 points, respectively.