COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State guard Jon Diebler by all accounts was having a terrible night up until the 1:27 mark of the second half when the Buckeye sharpshooter connected on his first and only bucket of the night and helped extend a tenuous three point lead to six as the Buckeyes pulled away late from Penn State (8-14, 0-10) for a 75-62 lead to help Ohio State (17-6, 7-3) close the gap on Michigan State in the Big Ten race.
Diebler ended the night with three points but Evan Turner continued to light it up with 27 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals. Talor Battle led the Nittany Lions with 24 points, nine rebounds and seven assists of his own. While it would be easy to get lost in the night of the two superstars the game was more than that with Ohio State nearly squandering a double digit lead.
"I knew the odds were that (Diebler) had to make it," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "We didn't shy away from Jon... He's a shooter and that's what we do."
Penn State is no stranger to close losses on the road taking Wisconsin to overtime at the Kohl Center and dropping razor close decisions at Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota to name a few. Ohio State led by 10 points at the 4:23 mark of the second half but Penn State clawed back to a one possession game with a pair of free throws by David Jackson. But that wasn't enough when it all came down to it.
"History kind of repeats itself. We tried to hang in there as long as we could and I thought we gave ourselves a chance to make a run at it," Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis said. "Diebler had the big shot, I think that was the only shot of the game he made."
The Nittany Lions had a plan to try and keep it close but the Buckeyes were able to use ball movement to stay a step ahead of the Penn State defense.
"We were actually trying to foul Dallas Lauderdale on the baseline and that didn't work so that freed up Diebler," DeChellis added.
Diebler had been held to six points on two separate occasions this season but it has been a long time since he put up the Golden Sombrero in the scoring department and the late game heroics saved him from the dubious honor of going o-fer.
"It felt good but it was just frustrating," Diebler said. "I got some good looks and it was just one of those games when they weren't falling."
Turner and Battle went shot for shot during the second half of the game with Turner putting up 22 points in the second half while Battle only managed to score 14. Both coaches after the game agreed that it is quite the spectacle watching a pair of the league's best go at it with Matta referring to it like a USA Basketball showcase.
Ohio State's three game home stand draws to a close on Sunday as the team hosts Iowa before heading back on the road for a pair of games at Indiana and Illinois. After that road trip the Buckeyes will play three of their final five at home. That will suit Ohio State just fine with the Buckeyes going unbeaten at home.