Carr, Watkins lead Penn State over No. 8 Ohio State
By TRAVIS JOHNSON, The Associated Press
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — A mob of white-clad fans stormed the court at Bryce Jordan Center and Tony Carr disappeared among them.
Carr was the most noticeable player on the court until then, scoring 30 points to lead Penn State to a 79-56 rout of No. 8 Ohio State on Thursday night.
“They threw a bunch of (defenders) at him,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “Tony was super-efficient tonight. I think his teammates knew he had it going a little bit.”
C.J. Jackson led Ohio State (22-6, 13-2 Big Ten) with 13 points and Keita Bates-Diop added 10 for the Buckeyes, who had their four-game winning streak snapped.
Now, the Nittany Lions (19-9, 9-6) are cruising, winners of six of their last seven since Carr lifted them over Ohio State with a buzzer-beater on Jan. 25. Thursday’s win marked Penn State’s first four-game conference winning streak since 2008-09 and the Nittany Lions have a chance to beat ranked teams in back-to-back games for the first time since 2011, when they travel to No. 6 Purdue.
They’ll bring a defense that frustrated the Buckeyes (22-6, 13-2) in their lowest scoring performance of the 2017-18 season.
Mike Watkins added 11 points and 10 rebounds for his tenth double-double of the season. Shep Garner and Josh Reaves added 13 and 10 points apiece for the Nittany Lions, who led 45-21 at halftime and by as many as 30 early in the second.
The Nittany Lions took control in the first half with a 12-0 run.
Carr tossed an alley-oop Watkins’ way and the forward jammed home the run’s second basket to give Penn State the lead for good just 3:20 in.
Penn State added a pair of 7-0 runs and a 6-0 spurt later in the half and Carr beat two defenders and buried an awkward layup off a full-court inbounds pass and an ensuing free throw to close the first half.
“We really have a hard time guarding him,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “We’ve tried almost everybody on our perimeter on him. We have ran through the gamut.”
Garner nailed one of his four 3-pointers to put Penn State up by 30 early in the second. But the Buckeyes used an 18-4 run to cut Penn State’s lead to 16 with 10:32 to play. Bates-Diop hit a 3-pointer to pull the Buckeyes to 58-42, but they wouldn’t get any closer.
“If we continue with this effort, it’s going to be a long couple of weeks,” Holtmann said.
THE BIG PICTURE
Ohio State: The Buckeyes entered a half game up on No. 2 Michigan State in the Big Ten standings and a 1½ ahead of No. 6 Purdue with the head-to-head tiebreaker over both. The Boilermakers fell to Wisconsin on Thursday, so they didn’t gain any ground. But the Buckeyes’ lead isn’t safe with three games left, especially if they shoot as poorly as they did inside the Bryce Jordan Center where they made just 28 percent of their field goals over the first 20 minutes.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions controlled this game from the opening tip thanks to stingy defense that turned into opportunistic offense. They improved to 2-2 against ranked teams this season.
TRY THEM ALL
Holtmann tried Jae’Sean Tate, Andre Wesson and even forward Bates-Diop to slow Carr. None were very effective as Carr made 9 of 15 shots from the floor and 8 of 12 free throws.
Afterward, Carr grinned when asked if he draws any personal satisfaction from the fact opponents are running through their playbooks and personnel on account of him.
“It’s kind of something I’m used to, teams throw one or two defenders at me during the game,” Carr said. “It’s definitely a confidence booster when they can’t really stop you.”
Penn State won the rebounding battle 38-30 and racked up defensive stats all night. The Nittany Lions finished with eight steals, seven blocks and scored 15 points off 10 Ohio State turnovers.
Jackson wasn’t available all evening and had to go to the locker room with cramps in the second. It’s been an issue for most of the season for the junior guard.
“I think obviously our guard depth is a bit of a concern, particularly at that position,” Holtmann said. “I think we all understand how important he is to us. I don’t think he would’ve been able to go back in the game if we wanted to put him in.”
Ohio State travels to No. 22 Michigan on Sunday.
Penn State visits No. 6 Purdue on Sunday.