Last season, when the Ohio State men’s basketball team took on the Penn State Nittany Lions in Columbus, it took the Buckeyes just 19 seconds to score their first points of the game.
Wednesday night wasn’t any different: Senior guard Shannon Scott opened the scoring with 19:41 showing on the first-half clock.
The outcome was different, however. It took the visiting Nittany Lions exactly seven minutes to get on the board as No. 23 OSU (19-6, 8-4) avenged last year’s 71-70 home loss to Penn State (15-10, 3-9) with a 75-55 victory at the Schottenstein Center.
After that first basket, the Buckeyes built a 12-0 lead early in Wednesday night’s matchup against Penn State and didn’t look back.
OSU coach Thad Matta said after the game that despite losing to the Nittany Lions twice last year, he didn’t need to remind the Buckeyes of what happened.
“They knew that. They knew that we had been swept last year,” Matta said. “We know we have to go back over there in a few weeks and play again.”
Bucking the recent trend of freshmen leading the team, senior forward Sam Thompson scored 13 points in the first half, and Scott led OSU with rebounds (six) and assists (four) at the break.
Thompson’s 22 total points were a game- and career-high for the Chicago native. He said that until the post-game press conference, he didn’t realize he had broken his own personal record, and credited the team’s consistency on the offensive end.
“We just played well. We executed. D, (freshman guard D’Angelo Russell) like he always does, draws a lot of attention, got me a lot of open shots, got me a lot of stuff in transition,” Thompson said. “We just had it going tonight offensively.”
With 7:35 left in the first half, Thompson had 11 points for the Buckeyes, while no other OSU player had more than two.
But the freshmen on the Buckeye roster weren’t exactly shut down.
By halftime, Russell accumulated 11 points as OSU took a 37-23 lead into the locker room.
Russell, who recorded OSU’s fourth triple-double in school history on Sunday against Rutgers, finished with 17 points despite shooting just 4-of-13 from the field.
The Louisville, Ky., native dished out a game-high seven assists while the rest of the Buckeye freshmen combined for 23 points.
Russell said after the game that despite his poor shooting night, he believes he can still be a dangerous player any time he takes the floor.
“I give a little bit of credit to myself. I feel like I can do whatever it takes. If it’s me passing, scoring, rebounding, whatever I gotta do,” Russell said. “Those stats show up, and I get a lot of attention, but I give a lot of credit to my teammates … The stats that don’t show on the screen, like deflections and diving on the floor. It just makes it easier for me.”
Russell’s teammates, aside from walk-on senior forward Jake Lorbach, all scored at least four points to take some of the weight off the freshman’s shoulders.
Thompson said the Buckeyes have the ability to be more effective when more players contribute than just Russell.
“(We can be) much more dangerous. We know what D’Angelo is gonna do,” Thompson said. “We are just that much better when other guys are playing well. It’s just something that we gotta keep doing, something I gotta keep doing.”
Senior center Amir Williams returned to the starting lineup for the Buckeyes as redshirt-senior forward Anthony Lee did not dress because of a left groin injury.
Matta said Lee’s injury has been nagging him for about three weeks and he is not sure if Lee will be available for OSU’s next game on Saturday.
Williams finished with five points to go along with seven rebounds.
Penn State senior guard D.J. Newbill, who entered the game as the Big Ten’s leading scorer, finished with 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the field.
Matta said after the game that he hopes suspended sophomore forward Marc Loving will be playing in the Buckeyes’ upcoming game against Michigan State. Loving was suspended before the Buckeyes dropped a 60-58 game at Purdue on Feb. 4.
The Buckeyes are set to return to action Saturday in East Lansing, Mich., against the Spartans. Tip-off is set for noon.