No. 9 Buckeyes fend off Nittany Lions
Cold-shooting starts don't faze Evan Turner.
The Ohio State star can rebound and find teammates for shots when his own shot isn't falling. And, then, when his team is in a bind, Turner comes through in the clutch.
It happened again Wednesday night in the ninth-ranked Buckeyes' 75-67 win over Penn State. Turner overcame shooting 1 for 7 in the first half, and scored eight straight points for the Buckeyes after the Nittany Lions had cut a 17-point lead to two with 5:15 left.
By the time Turner's mini-run was done, it was 67-59 with two minutes left.
"When you start making points, you start getting more confident about it and that was it," Turner said about his cold start. "I felt like the shots I missed should have gone in and it was no problem."
David Lighty scored 18, including an open 3 from the left wing that put the Buckeyes (22-7, 12-4 Big Ten) up 49-32 with 13:50 left before Penn State answered with three straight 3s.
David Jackson's three-point play off a layup with 5:15 left got the Nittany Lions (10-17, 2-13) within 59-57, sending the Jordan Center crowd longing for an unlikely upset into hysterics. Jackson finished with 13 points and six rebounds, while Talor Battle had a team-high 22.
Enter Turner, who hit an array of jumpers and athletic leaners and finished the second half 7-of-10 shooting.
"The shots he hit, I honestly think you really can't guard them," Battle said. "It's pretty hard to guard him."
The top two scorers in the Big Ten, Turner and Battle are buddies from their days playing together on the U.S. national team last summer at the World University Games.
On Wednesday night, Turner had the edge in their friendly rivalry.
But he had help as Ohio State's balanced offense proved too much for Penn State to handle early in the second half when the Buckeyes opened with a 19-6 run capped by Lighty's 3.
That's when Penn State finally found its range, hitting three straight 3s over the next two minutes in a 9-0 run. Jeff Brooks' jumper and Jackson's three-point play drew Penn State within two with 5:15 left.
Knocked to the floor after getting fouled by Turner, Battle came to his teammate's aid and let out a big yell.
But the Nittany Lions would get no closer, thanks to Turner's athletic play. He showed again why he's a candidate for national player of the year.
"What you saw tonight, he's done that several times," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "A lot of people forget he's 6-foot-7. He's long ... he was able to get up over the guards, a couple pull-ups."
Turner also hit all nine of his foul shots.
Battle said he thought his team may have expended too much energy in chipping away at the big deficit. Penn State coach Ed DeChellis didn't like the team's defense.
"When you get it to where it's a three-point game, then you got to really suck it up and defend and make it really, really hard for them to score," DeChellis said. "He backed us in and drove by us, No. 21 [Turner]. He's a special player."
With the regular season winding down, every game is a must-win for the Buckeyes in a tight Big Ten race. They entered Wednesday tied with Michigan State for second in the conference, a half-game back of Purdue.
As usual, Battle was at his do-everything best, the only Nittany Lion to get consistent penetration in the lane. Possessing a quick first step, it was easy to see why Battle (19.0 points) is second in the conference in scoring behind Turner (19.5 points).
William Buford assumed the scoring load in the first half with 10 points, while Turner went cold from the field. The Buckeyes went into the locker room at the half up just 30-26 after Penn State's Tim Frazier threw in a layup after a scramble for a loose ball just before the buzzer.
Matta wasn't happy with his team in the locker room. Asked if he urged them to play harder, Matta responded: "That would be an understatement."