(2) hit a slew of big shots, including the game-winner in overtime to send Ohio State to another loss. (Jay LaPrete/AP)
Ohio State just needed to find some way to get back in the groove. Prior to last Wednesday's win over Illinois, these Buckeyes had lost four straight games after a 15-0 start to the season. The seven-point win over the Illini was a strong bounceback point, but this Ohio State team needed to prove it remembered how to win in spurts before embarking on a tough Big Ten stretch in February.
A meeting with Penn State seemed like the perfect way for the Buckeyes to find themselves. Instead, coach Thad Matta's crew now finds itself searching for more answers.
The Nittany Lions, who entered the game having lost 18 straight games to Ohio State, rallied from 11 points down with just under eight minutes to play and sunk the Buckeyes 71-70 in overtime. Matta's program has now lost five of six games since its unbeaten start.
The Buckeyes looked like a win streak was within their grasp late in the fourth quarter, when LaQuinton Ross hit two free throws to give OSU a 59-49 lead with 7:58 to play. But Penn State's backcourt duo of Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill helped the Nittany Lions climb back into the contest in Columbus. Newbill hit a three-pointer off a Frazier pass with 1:08 to play to tie the game at 62.
Aaron Craft followed with a layup and Lenzelle Smith Jr. hit one of two free throws to give Ohio State a three-point lead. But Newbill struck again with a trey with 11 seconds left to knot things up again at 65. Smith's last-ditch three-pointer and Shannon Scott put-back fell short. It was overtime in Columbus.
Ohio State still had a chance to stave off a disappointing loss to a 10-10 program. But for one reason or another, it couldn't stop Newbill.
The Penn State guard hit a layup with 45 seconds left to bring the Nittany Lions within one, 70-69, before Ohio State turned the ball over and Newbill connected on a 15-foot jumper with two seconds to spare. Just like that, the Buckeyes were staring at another loss.
Frazier and Newbill came in averaging better than 32 points combined and didn't disappoint by notching 33 against Ohio State, 25 of which came courtesy of Newbill. The Buckeyes couldn't contain Penn State's speedy guard and couldn't slow down the Nittany Lions' perimeter shooting, giving up nine three-pointers as PSU connected on 48 percent from the field on the night.
Ohio State is struggling at just the wrong time. The Buckeyes now must head into consecutive road games at Wisconsin and Iowa reeling from their first loss to Penn State under Matta. Whatever mojo this Ohio State team showed at the beginning of the season can disappear at inopportune moments -- say, at home against a 10-10 conference foe. The 24th-ranked Buckeyes are likely to drop out of the polls by next week after climbing all the way to No. 3 just a couple of weeks ago. Even Ohio State's players knew what to expect after the loss.
Unless Matta can tighten up this defense and prevent lengthy lags on offense, this Ohio State team won't become much of a factor in the Big Ten race.