STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Ohio State took as much as an 18-point lead in the second half and then held off a furious Penn State rally in the closing minutes to claim a 76-64 victory in the Big Ten opener for each team on Sunday night.
The Buckeyes are now 6-2 on the season and 1-0 in the Big Ten while Penn State falls to 4-4 and 0-1.
Penn State transfer Jamari Wheeler enjoyed his first trip back the Bryce Jordan Center. Wheeler tied a season-high with nine points, dished-out a season-high eight assists, grabbed a season-high tying five rebounds and swiped a season-high three steals.
Graduate Kyle Young also had a nice night, scoring a season-high 16 points on a career-best 4-of-4 shooting from long range. He also added seven rebounds. E.J. Liddell grinded-out 14 points to go along with five boards and three steals.
Freshman Malaki Branham was the third Buckeye in double figures with a season-high 11 points.
The Buckeyes shot over 50 percent from the floor for the fourth time this season, finishing at 51 percent (27-of-53). That included a season-high tying 12 makes from beyond the arc.
Penn State opened the game with a 12-5 run to force an early OSU timeout. Six of the Buckeyes’ next eight made field goals were from beyond the arc and the Buckeyes took a 27-19 lead midway through the opening half. OSU continued to shoot well and would lead 41-30 at the break.
The lead swelled to 18 points early in the second half thanks to three-pointers from Young and Justin Ahrens. Penn State slowly worked its way back over the next 12 minutes and got as close as six with two and a half minutes to play. Meechie Johnson Jr. and Ahrens both knocked-down big three-pointers in the final four minutes and the Buckeyes were 4-of-4 from the line to hold on for the 76-64 victory.
The Buckeyes return home for two games this week. They will take on Towson this Wednesday night at 9 p.m. before hoping back into Big Ten play on Saturday by hosting No. 23 Wisconsin at Noon.