STATE COLLEGE, Pa. --Deshaun Thomas never truly found his rhythm on Saturday. But fortunately for the No. 14 Ohio State men's basketball team (15-4, 5-2), Sam Thompson picked up the slack.
With Thomas hampered with foul trouble and shooting struggles, Thompson paced the Buckeyes with 16 points in their 65-51 win over Penn State (8-12, 0-7). OSU's latest Big Ten win wasn't its prettiest and came against the conference's last-place team, but it did show Buckeyes' head coach Thad Matta that he has players other than Thomas who are capable of carrying his team through a game.
The Nittany Lions hung with Ohio State through the first six minutes of action, tying the game at 11 on a D.J. Newbill jump shot. With Thomas on the bench with two fouls for the final eight minutes of the half, the Buckeyes closed the period on an 18-7 run and took a 29-18 into the locker room.
OSU's first half effort was aided by the struggles of Penn State, who went cold for a significant stretch of the first half, only netting one point and not making a single field goal for 11 minutes and 24 seconds and over the course of 16 possessions.
The second half wasn't much kinder to the Nittany Lions, who trailed by double-digits for the final 27 and a half minutes of action. The Buckeyes managed to stretch their advantage to as many as 17 points, but never truly found a way to put their collective foot on the throat of their lesser opponent.
"Did we want to get (the lead) more? Yeah, we wanted to," Matta said. "This was a great win for this basketball team from the standpoint of how we started and maintained the lead that we had."
As has usually been the case for Ohio State in its wins this season, the defense led the way, with the Nittany Lions missing a total of 30 shots on Saturday, including a 4-for-17 effort from outside the three-point arc. The Buckeyes also cleaned up on the glass, out-rebounding Penn State by a margin of 39-25, with Lenzelle Smith Jr. collecting eight boards, and Evan Ravenel providing seven more for OSU.
"That was something that was very, very important in this game," Matta said. "I thought our guys did a pretty good job with it."
Like Iowa did against the Buckeyes on Tuesday, Penn State relied on multiple defensive looks, switching from man-to-man to zone defenses in attempt the stifle OSU. The Nittany Lions, however, found limited success, with three Buckeyes scoring in double-figures on Saturday, with Thomas and Smith scoring 11 points a piece in addition to Thompson's game-high 16 points, which came on a 6-of-7 shooting effort.
"The biggest thing we did was we had pretty good ball movement today," Matta said. "The swings were there and it opened up a lot for us."
Guard Jermaine Marshall led the way for Penn State with 16 points, while Newbill added 15 for the Nittany Lions.
Still a game back of the conference lead, Ohio State will return to action on Tuesday, when it hosts Wisconsin (13-6, 4-2) for a 7 p.m. tipoff.