Ohio State earns gritty, comeback win against Penn State

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State's E.J. Liddell (32) celebrates with Justin Ahrens after grabbing a rebound of a Penn State shot that could have tied the score in the final seconds of the Buckeyes' 83-79 victory Wednesday.

The creeping sense of history repeating itself manifested on two fronts Wednesday night in Value City Arena.

Eight days prior, the Ohio State men’s basketball team had built a double-digit lead against Purdue only to cough it up and take a two-point loss. This time, the No. 13 Buckeyes let an early 12-point lead slip away as the Nittany Lions roared back and built an eight-point, second-half lead of their own.

As the game wound down to its crucial final seconds, however, Penn State would have the ball with a chance to take the lead in the final seconds — just as Purdue did on Jan. 19 on the Buckeyes' home floor.

The good news for Ohio State: Neither Tony Carr, whose half-court buzzer-beater three years ago gave the Nittany Lions an upset win against the Buckeyes, nor Jaden Ivey, who made the tiebreaking three-pointer in the Boilermakers' 67-65 win, was anywhere to be found.

Instead, a floater in the paint by Penn State's Myreon Jones was off-line with three seconds to play, allowing Ohio State to emerge battered, bruised and victorious with an 83-79 win.

“Well, thanks for bringing his name up after a win,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said when asked about Carr. “They have a lot of shot makers (this year), so you’re really dialed in on those shot makers. I didn’t once think about the Tony Carr three that was hit here three years ago.”

This version of Penn State gave the Buckeyes plenty of problems on its own. Behind a 26-point outburst from 6-foot-6 forward Seth Lundy and a defense that forced Ohio State into a season-high 17 turnovers, an unranked Penn State team that was shut down for two weeks for COVID issues earlier this month pushed the Buckeyes more than the likes of title contenders Wisconsin and Illinois in recent weeks.

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After seeing an early 12-point lead narrow to 43-39 at halftime, the Buckeyes (13-4, 7-4 Big Ten) fell behind for more than 12 minutes of the second half before fighting back.

Penn State (5-7, 2-6) led 74-68 with 5:01 to play when Lundy hit two free throws after drawing the fifth foul from OSU forward Kyle Young. But Ohio State would force the visitors to miss seven of their final nine shots while closing with a 15-6 run, including a 6-0 run during the final 1:37.

Ohio State forward Justice Sueing converts a basket while getting fouled in the second half against Penn State. Sueing finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

“Everyone was excited,” said Buckeyes forward Justice Sueing, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds. “It’s hard to win in the Ten. It’s hard to win, period. We celebrate every win, regardless if it’s by a couple points like tonight or 20 or 30.”

Sueing and sophomore forward E.J. Liddell did the late scoring. After Sueing hit two free throws with 1:37 left to tie the score at 79, Liddell drew a foul with 59.7 seconds left and hit both free throws to push Ohio State ahead 81-79.

He then helped challenge Jones’ final runner, nabbed the rebound and iced the victory with two more free throws with 1.9 seconds left.

Liddell finished the night perfect on his 10 free-throw attempts and scored 10 of his team-high 22 points in the final 7:16.

“I was just emphasizing in the last four-minute war that it’s winning time,” Liddell said. “There’s no better feeling than to get up there and win it for the team and ice the game, put us up four. I was just up there thinking, ‘Let’s finish the game, let’s win, let’s go home.’ ”

When they did, guard Duane Washington Jr. led his teammates in their customary locker room rendition of “Fight The Team,” to joyous applause. It came moments after the players waved to the limited family members in attendance, some of them dancing, Holtmann pumping his fist.

As Sueing said, there’s no apologizing for wins in “the Ten.”