Thompson scores 22 to lead No. 23 Ohio St. over Penn St.
Sam Thompson listened to praise about his outside shooting and almost took it as an insult.
"I can still jump a little bit," he said with a grin.
Thompson scored a career-high 22 points and D'Angelo Russell flirted with his second straight triple-double to lead No. 23 Ohio State past Penn State 75-55 on Wednesday night.
The Buckeyes (19-6, 8-4 Big Ten), who have won five of six, are a superior team when Russell has a running mate who joins him in the 20-point range.
"It makes it easier. A lot easier," said Russell, the nation's leading freshman scorer, who had 17 points, six rebounds and seven assists. "Teams can't really key on me if the other guys are stepping up and doing what they're good at."
For at least his first couple of years at Ohio State, Thompson, a 6-foot-7 senior, was known for his highlight-reel dunks but little else offensively. He was hardly a factor from the perimeter and didn't drive to the hoop much.
But against offensively challenged Penn State (15-10, 3-9), he shot 3 of 5 on 3-pointers and 7 of 9 from the free throw line to eclipse his previous career best of 20 points against Iona in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
"That was big for us. I'm so happy to see the ball going in for Sam," coach Thad Matta said. "He puts a lot of time in. We've kind of been saying, if we can get him making some shots it makes us a lot more effective. Everybody fears him running to the rim, (but) being able to step out and make a shot definitely helps open things up for us."
Ohio State never trailed after streaking to a 12-0 lead while holding Penn State scoreless for the first 6:54.
The Lions drew as close as 24-16 before Ohio State pulled away for good. Thompson hit a layup off Russell's assist before Russell made a teardrop and two free throws and Jae'Sean Tate scored inside. After Julian Moore hit a basket for Penn State, Russell poured in a long, arching 3-pointer to make it 35-18.
D.J. Newbill had 16 points for Penn State, which swept the two-game series last year after losing 18 straight to the Buckeyes.
"We took some really good shots in that first 4 minutes and they didn't fall. And for the first time I saw us get deflated. I haven't seen that all year," coach Patrick Chambers said. "And Ohio State wouldn't let us back."
Thompson also had the primary defensive responsibility against Newbill, the Big Ten's leading scorer, who came in averaging 20.9 points a game. He ended up 5 of 13 from the field.
"It was just making him work, no open looks, trying to keep him off the foul line and stay down on his fakes," Thompson said. "And make sure when he had the ball he saw five Ohio State defenders."
The Buckeyes were still without second-leading scorer Marc Loving (11.7 points per game), who has been held out of the last three games for an undisclosed disciplinary reason.
Ohio State also didn't have its starting center the past five games, Anthony Lee, due to a left groin injury. He did not dress.
Penn State: The circumstances heading into the game were very similar to the last meeting in Columbus. The Nittany Lions were just 10-10 overall and 1-6 in the Big Ten when they came to Value City Arena on Jan. 29, 2014, while the Buckeyes were 16-4 and ranked No. 24.
Newbill, who had 25 points, hit a pull-up jumper over Ohio State's Aaron Craft with 2 seconds left in overtime in Penn State's 71-70 victory for its first win against the Buckeyes since 1998.
Ohio State: NBA scouts and draft experts have pegged Russell, should he leave the Buckeyes early, as a lottery pick. He is the top-scoring freshman in the nation at 19.5 points a game and, while being watched by dozens of pro scouts on Sunday, posted a triple-double in a 79-60 win at Rutgers.
Russell said Tuesday he's not antsy or anxious about the decision he will soon face.
"Not at all. My teammates make it easy for me to stay focused the best way I can," he said. "We know what we've got to do as a team and my individual success has nothing to do with our goals as a team."
Penn State: The Nittany Lions head home to face No. 19 Maryland on Saturday and No. 5 Wisconsin next Wednesday.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes play their next two north of the state's border, traveling to Michigan State on Saturday and Michigan on Feb. 22.