STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Left open in the corner, Sam Thompson found an uncontested path to the basket along the baseline and contorted his body around 6-foot-9 center Sasa Borovnjak for a layup and three-point play.
With Big Ten-leading scorer Deshaun Thomas having an off day, the lithe 6-7 Thompson stepped up Saturday for No. 14 Ohio State.
He scored 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field, and the Buckeyes took advantage of cold-shooting Penn State for a 65-51 victory.
I really did the easy part, the sophomore said. Guys found me, I was wide open, and I just knocked down some shots.
Jermaine Marshall had 16 points for the Nittany Lions, who have lost 18 straight to the Buckeyes. Thomas, a Bishop Luers graduate, finished with 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting, well below his league-leading average of 20.5.
Thompson picked up the slack from the field for Ohio State (15-4, 5-2 Big Ten), while Lenzelle Smith Jr. helped put away pesky Penn State by hitting five of six from the foul line over the final 4:13. Smith finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.
An 11-minute stretch without a field goal in the first half hurt the Nittany Lions (8-12, 0-8).
If you told me that we’d hold Deshaun Thomas to 11 points, I’d tell you we’re in the game with a chance to win, coach Patrick Chambers said.
D.J. Newbill had 15 points and six assists, while Borovnjak added nine points. The Nittany Lions did draw within 59-49 with 2:41 left off two foul shots from Marshall.
But Smith was clutch at the foul line down the stretch, and Thompson hurt the Nittany Lions all day.
He answered one Penn State run with a three from the wing to keep the lead at double digits. His acrobatic drive around Borovnjak for the three-point play put Ohio State up 43-27 with about 13:30 left.
Sam was tremendous today. I really challenged Sam to play his best basketball, coach Thad Matta said. From the standpoint of what he brought to the table today, I couldn’t be happier for him.
Ohio State gradually asserted control in the second half, though scrappy Penn State tried to hang around with defense – Thompson’s good day notwithstanding.
The Buckeyes held a 39-25 advantage on the boards, and limited the Nittany Lions to just two offensive rebounds.
WISCONSIN 45, No. 12 MINNESOTA 44: In Madison, Wis., Traevon Jackson just beat the shot clock and hit a 15-foot jumper from the right side with 4 seconds left as the Badgers (14-6, 5-2) handed the Golden Gophers (15-5, 3-4) a fourth straight loss.
After Jackson’s shot gave the Badgers a 45-43 lead, the Gophers called a timeout with 1.8 seconds remaining and inbounded from halfcourt. The Badgers’ Mike Bruesewitz fouled Trevor Mbakwe on the play, but the big man was unable to shoot the ensuing free throws because of an apparent right hand or wrist injury.
Rodney Williams stepped to the line and made the first free throw but missed the second and Sam Dekker grabbed the rebound to seal the win for Wisconsin, which ended a two-game slide.
NEBRASKA 64, NORTHWESTERN 49: In Lincoln, Neb., Dylan Talley scored 20 points as the Cornhuskers (11-10, 2-6) won for the first time in four conference home games.
Brandon Ubel had 14 points and 12 rebounds for Nebraska.
Dave Sobolewski matched his season high with 21 points and Jared Swopshire had 11 to pace the Wildcats (12-9, 3-5), who were coming off a win over No. 12 Minnesota.