STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Ohio State players swarmed one of their own, offering hugs and handshakes before assembling the traditional postgame line to offer the same to their opponents on Tuesday.
Jae’Sean Tate saved Ohio State with a late layup that lifted the Buckeyes to a 71-70 win over Penn State.
Tate took a pass at mid court, spun by two Penn State defenders in the lane and kissed the ball off the glass for the game-winner. It countered a deep 3-pointer from Penn State’s Tony Carr that gave the Nittany Lions a 70-69 lead with nine seconds to play.
“Tremendous finish by J.T. there,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.
Marc Loving added 14 points and Trevor Thompson chipped in 11 for the Buckeyes (17-13, 7-10 Big Ten) who won on the road for just the fourth time this season. Tate finished with 12 points and nine rebounds and also committed six turnovers, the most by any player.
That fact elicited a long pause from Matta who’s watched his team stumble to a 4-7 road record in what’s been a disappointing season.
“Obviously we felt comfortable with it and he had his reads,” Matta said. “He made the right read and we had plenty of time there to pass if he needed to.”
Penn State was out of time and a desperation heave fell short. The Nittany Lions lost their fourth straight.
Carr finished with 21, Shep Garner notched 20 points and Lamar Stevens added 16 for Penn State (14-16, 6-11).
Penn State coach Patrick Chambers fought off emotions after the game.
“The guys that competed really competed hard and they gave us a chance to win,” Chambers said. “This is our process. This is our journey. Can’t put my finger on why the ball is not bouncing our way. But this is our process and we’re going to learn from these and hopefully we’ll learn quick.”
It appeared they did just that in-game. After the Buckeyes took a 40-36 lead into halftime, the Nittany Lions came out in the second half and took advantage of room on the outside.
Garner, who hit three of his five 3-pointers in the first half, made two in the first two minutes of the second. Penn State took its first lead on a pair of Stevens free throws with 18:22 to play before the Buckeyes used a 22-14 run to regain control with an Andre Wesson 3-pointer with 6:39 to play.
Meanwhile, Penn State’s offense went cold. The Nittany Lions went without a field goal for 4:29 of the final 5:11 before Carr cut Ohio State’s lead to 69-67 with a layup with 42 seconds left.
Watkins hobbled to the locker room with cramps midway through the second half. He emerged minutes later and was able to return to the game.
But Penn State’s big man wasn’t feeling well and kept stretching his legs as play went on. Watkins, who entered the game second in the Big Ten with 75 blocks, finished the game on the bench, not under the hoop when Tate scored the winning shot.
Chambers said Watkins was cramping for much of the game.
Watkins’ loss wasn’t the only one for Penn State.
Guard Josh Reaves left the game in the second half and did not return. Forward Payton Banks didn’t play due to an illness and forward Julian Moore, nursing an injury sustained Saturday, played just 14 minutes.
“These are facts, not excuses. No Payton Banks. We lost Josh Reaves with six minutes to go. We didn’t have Mike Watkins for long stretches. Julian Moore played on one leg.”