STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — It wasn’t just that the game felt like it added to the mounting evidence of the season slipping away. It wasn’t that 21st-ranked Ohio State trailed for all but 48 seconds at Penn State on a snowy Saturday, that the Buckeyes allowed their hosts to hit more than half their shots or that it was a fourth loss in five games.
In a 90-76 loss at the Bryce Jordan Center against a team the Buckeyes had handled by 32 points only 42 days ago, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann didn’t see his team play hard enough to give itself a chance to win. Particularly on the defensive end.
“I definitely thought our effort would be better,” Holtmann said. “For whatever reason, effort wasn’t there. We’ve got to figure that out as coaches.”
The Buckeyes (12-6, 2-5 Big Ten) allowed the Nittany Lions (13-5, 3-4) to shoot 53.7 percent from the field, the second-best mark by an Ohio State opponent this season. The 90 points were the most allowed by the Buckeyes since they gave up that total to Gonzaga in the second round of the 2018 NCAA tournament, Holtmann’s first season with the program.
Some of the numbers at both ends of the court were inflated during the final minutes of a game already well in hand for the home team. The Buckeyes scored 19 points and allowed 17 after the final media timeout with 3:54 to play, fouling to stop the clock even in the final seconds as the fans still remaining booed.
The sentiment carried over to the locker room, where Holtmann and his staff met with the players for more than 21 minutes and everyone was given an opportunity to speak. By that point, the Nittany Lion roar had played over the speakers within the arena 84 times.
“Open it up for everybody and whoever has something to say, get it out with the people we trust in there,” said sophomore guard Duane Washington Jr., who returned from a one-game suspension and led the Buckeyes with 20 points. “We just let it all out in there.”
The specific message was kept in-house, per senior Andre Wesson. Holtmann said there was somewhat of a common theme that needs to lead to action.
“We had a good, open dialogue there,” the coach said. “I think generally there were some of the same things consistently with our older guys. Some good things came out of it, but we’ll see how we are come practice (Sunday)."
Penn State took control with an 11-0 run to take a 14-4 lead, and Ohio State never got it to a two-possession deficit from there. The Nittany Lions took a 20-point lead with 15:10 to play, and Ohio State would get no closer than 12 the rest of the way.
Junior Kaleb Wesson had 19 points and Andre Wesson 12 for Ohio State. It wasn’t enough against an opponent led by Lamar Stevens, who had 24 points in less than 22 minutes of action while dealing with foul trouble, and guard Myreon Jones with 20.