Matta ties school wins mark in 77-67 victory over Penn St
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Ohio State's Thad Matta tied a school record for coaching victories Wednesday night and quickly noted that players such as D'Angelo Russell make him a better coach.
Russell scored 28 points and No. 23 Ohio State's 77-67 victory over Penn State placed Matta in a tie with Fred Taylor with 297 wins against 91 defeats in 11 seasons with the Buckeyes. A victory Sunday over No. 6 Wisconsin would give Matta (399-122) his 400th career win. That was why he didn't cite any special significance just yet for his coaching numbers.
"This game was big for us so for so many other reasons," Matta said. "When the time's right, I'll sit down and have a nice glass of wine and think about it. We have to get ourselves ready; we're playing the best team in the Big Ten on Sunday."
Russell sparked Matta's record-tying win. He was 8 of 16 from the field, 5 of 8 from 3-point range and 7 of 11 from the free-throw line. He added six rebounds and three assists.
"He makes me a better coach," Matta said. "No doubt about it, we were struggling from the free-throw line. He started making shots and we started making free throws.
"He did a tremendous job of keeping his composure. He had a great pace about him."
Jae'Sean Tate and Shannon Scott each added 13 points for the Buckeyes (22-8, 11-6 Big Ten).
Seniors D.J. Newbill (17 points) and Ross Travis (14) led Penn State (15-15, 3-14) during their final home game for the Nittany Lions. Newbill eclipsed the 2,000-point mark for his career; he has 2,011.
Ohio State owned a 38-31 rebounding edge, but shot 6 of 17 from 3-point range and just 23 of 36 from the foul line. The Buckeyes held Penn State to 3 of 17 from long distance.
The Buckeyes didn't pull away until the final 10 minutes. Penn State led 38-29 early in the second half, but Ohio State's 39-16 run over the next 12 minutes provided the Buckeyes with a safe margin.
"We were down 20-29 and went on that run at the end of the half," Matta said. "They were driving and we made some careless fouls, but our positioning was 10 times better (in the second half). Our rotations were horrible early, but then we got some steals off the ball."
The Buckeyes forced 11 Penn State turnovers and scored 11 points off Lions miscues.
Nittany Lions coach Patrick Chambers said Penn State played "really, really well" for 30 minutes before Russell took over.
"We missed some shots and we had some turnovers, but Russell is that good," Chambers said. "He took over the game. He only needed a crease to get shots off; he got hot.
Thad gives him some rope and lets him play basketball."
Geno Thorpe opened the second half for Penn State with back-to-back layups, Travis followed with another and Jordan Dickerson added a dunk for eight quick points and a nine-point lead.
Tate picked up his third foul with 15:35 remaining. His pair of layups prior to 11 straight points from Russell - three 3s and two foul shots - enabled the Buckeyes to charge to a 46-42 advantage. Penn State was held to two points in a four-minute span.
The Buckeyes remained patient, with crisp passing and good ball-handling, many times not shooting until only a few seconds remained on the shot clock. Scott's 3-pointer from the corner put Ohio State up 55-44 and forced a Penn State timeout with under 10 minutes to play.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes didn't arrive in State College until 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, about six hours after their scheduled arrival. The team plane was forced to land two hours away in Latrobe because of a Tuesday night ice storm that shut down the Penn State campus on Wednesday. The Buckeyes bused in from Latrobe. ... Matta's 11 Ohio State teams have averaged 26.9 victories. Matta is 153-65 against Big Ten teams during his Ohio State tenure. He also won 24 games at Butler and 78 at Xavier.
Penn State: Newbill is fourth on Penn State's career scoring list and is the third player to score 600 points or more in back-to-back seasons. He's the second Penn State player with three straight seasons of scoring 500 or more. ... Newbill and Travis are Penn State's only senior starters. Travis leaves in the No. 3 spot in career rebounds (792) for Penn State.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes are at home Sunday against No. 6 Wisconsin.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions conclude their regular season at Minnesota on Sunday.