Looking at statistics only tells you so much about a game.
For example, when you look at the final box score in Ohio State’s win over Penn State on Wednesday night, the first stat that leaps off the page is 17 turnovers, a season-high for the Buckeyes.
What a box score wouldn’t highlight was a sloppy sequence at the end of the first half. Two turnovers in the final 20 seconds led to four quick Penn State points, which cut Ohio State’s lead in half heading into the locker room.
“That’s just unacceptable,” Justice Sueing said about that sequence. “We can’t close out a half like that, turning the ball over and giving them two buckets. So, learning from that, we just have to take care of the ball, especially ending the half, and because that ultimately, I feel like, is what gave them that little boost in the second half as well, had them feeling good. As long as we take care of the ball, we would have cut that off and I think we would have been alright. Just little tweaks we have to make to our game and we have to make them pretty quick going into this next game on Sunday.”
On the bright side, Ohio State only turned the ball over twice in the final 10 minutes of action, which made a comeback that much easier, not handing the ball over to the Nittany Lions and giving them extra opportunities to build a bigger lead.
Another difficult area for the Buckeyes was the 20 fouls that were committed, 12 of which came in the second half.
“It was a really tightly called game, a lot of fouls on our part. We’ve just got to do that better,” head coach Chris Holtmann said.
Both Kyle Young and C.J. Walker - vocal, senior leaders - had to sit the bench for a combined 8:30 and watch while their teammates climbed back into the game without them.
“Our two seniors fouled out, so those were two leaders off the floor,” E.J. Liddell added. “They were on the bench being very vocal about just staying together and finishing the game and rebounding to win the game. I just felt like we all stayed together.”
Penn State was whistled just as much as the Buckeyes, though, and with fouls come trips to the free-throw line. One of the best in the Big Ten, Ohio State held the distinct advantage Wednesday night, going 20-of-21 for the game and making all eight of its free throws in the final five minutes.
Liddell was perfect 10-for-10 from the free-throw line, marking a career high in free-throws made. He was also the first to make 10 free throws in a game since C.J. Walker when he made 11 against Illinois last March.
Walker can take a little bit of credit for Liddell’s career performance, though.
“C.J. Walker, before the game, actually was like, ‘Can you please go 100 percent from the line tonight?’ and I told him I had him and that was pretty much it,” Liddell said with a smile.
Now in the second half of the Big Ten schedule, Ohio State will have to look past the box score, clean up its mistakes and continue to make improvements to contend with the conference’s best.
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