STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) – After a cold start, Evan Turner found his shooting touch at just the right time.
The Ohio State star had 25 points and overcame a 1 of 7 shooting effort in the first half by hitting 7 of 10 in the second, and the No. 9 Buckeyes nearly lost a 17-point lead before holding off Penn State 75-67.
David Lighty scored 18, including an open 3 from the left wing that put the Buckeyes (22-7, 12-4 Big Ten) up 49-32 with 13:50 left before Penn State answered with three straight 3s.
David Jackson’s three-point play off a layup with 5:15 left got the Nittany Lions (10-17, 2-13) within 59-57, sending a Jordan Center crowd longing for an unlikely upset into hysterics. Jackson finished with 13 points and six rebounds, while Talor Battle had a team-high 22.
But Turner scored Ohio State’s next eight to help put the game away, hitting an array of athletic leaners and layups, and hitting all nine of his foul shots on the evening.
The Nittany Lions couldn’t handle Ohio State’s balanced offense during the Buckeyes’ 19-4 run to open the second half capped by Lighty’s 3.
That’s when Penn State finally found its range, hitting 3 straight 3s over the next two minutes in a 9-0 run. Jeff Brooks’ jumper and David Jackson’s three-point play off a layup drew Penn State within 59-57 with 5:15 left.
Knocked to the floor after getting fouled by Turner, Battle came to his teammate’s aid and let out a big yell. But the Nittany Lions would get no closer, thanks to Turner’s athletic play. He showed again why he’s a candidate for national player of the year.
With the regular season winding down, every game is a must-win for the Buckeyes in a tight Big Ten race. They entered Wednesday tied with Michigan State for second in the conference, a half-game back of Purdue.
As usual, Battle was at his do-everything best, the only Nittany Lion to get consistent penetration in the lane. Possessing a quick first step, it was easy to see why Battle (19.0 points) is second in the conference in scoring behind Turner (19.5 points).
Turner, though, has had consistent help from his teammates all year. They stepped up again Wednesday night.
William Buford assumed the scoring load in the first half with 10 points, while Turner went cold from the field.