Third Time Anything But Charming

By Jeff Rapp, March 3rd, 2018

It’s safe to say the Ohio State men’s basketball players and coaches would be happy to never see Penn State guard Tony Carr ever again.

The Buckeyes missed out on a golden opportunity to grab a piece of the regular-season Big Ten title in large part because of being swept by the talented and edgy Nittany Lions, the first of those losses coming via a banked in three at the buzzer by Carr in Columbus. The rematch was a fury of Penn State highlights as the Lions blew out then-eighth-ranked OSU, 79-56.

On Friday during a furious and entertaining quarterfinal of the Big Ten Tournament, the two teams met again, this time in New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden. Big Ten Network hyped the game as “The Revenge,” and No. 13 OSU seemed to be on its way to such a result with a one-point lead and the ball with the game clock ticking under 30 seconds.

However, PSU’s Shep Garner raked the ball away from Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop with about 21 seconds remaining, leaving the Buckeyes without a shot attempt and scrambling on defense to avoid yet another crushing defeat at the paws of the Lions.

Sure enough, Carr went to work and found a wide-open Josh Reaves for a go-ahead dunk with 3.1 seconds left. OSU point guard C.J. Jackson, the hero a week ago at Indiana, wasn’t able to get off much of a shot while hounded by Carr and the buzzer sounded on a 69-68 upset win for the seventh-seeded Lions (21-12).

Patrick Chambers’ team entered the BTT squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, but may have enough on the resume now thanks to a 3-0 showing against the Buckeyes (24-8), who exit as the No. 2 seed and now have to wait two weeks for another postseason appearance.

In the three contests against OSU this year, Carr, who led the Big Ten in scoring as a sophomore, was spectacular. He hit 28 of 46 shot attempts including 12 of 20 from behind the arc, and totaled 83 points, 16 rebounds, 13 assists and just six turnovers.

And this time instead of shooting the dagger into OSU, he passed it to a teammate.

With Andrew Dakich shifting to the free throw line to cut off a driving Carr and Jackson cheating off his mind to help, Reaves simply zipped down the lane, received a Carr jump pass and flushed home the winning basket with a stunned Bates-Diop merely watching.

“It was ‘Fist Two,’ basically try to get the mismatch and I was just trying to make a play,” said Carr, who finished with 25 points, five rebounds and six assists. “And Josh basically made the play. He made a great cut. I was just out there dribbling around. Josh made a great play. And I thank God I found him.”

Added Reaves, “I just noticed my man wasn’t looking at me so I took advantage of that.”

Penn State played without center Mike Watkins but forward Lamar Stevens came through with 15 points while Garner added 13.

Bates-Diop led the Buckeyes with 25 points – 17 in the second half – and the other Buckeyes in double figures were Jae’Sean Tate and Kam Williams, each with 10 points. Tate added seven rebounds but was saddled with foul trouble throughout the contest.

Penn State advanced to face Purdue in Saturday’s second semifinal at MSG. The first game of the game will pit rivals Michigan State and Michigan against each other.

The Buckeyes once again were left to wonder about what could have been.

“Give Penn State credit; I thought they made the necessary plays down the stretch,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “Tough back-and-forth game. We’ll learn from it and get ready for the (NCAA) tournament.”

Ohio State fought out of an eight-point deficit in the second half and also rallied after trailing by six points with less than eight minutes to play.

A layup by Andre Wesson gave the Buckeyes a 64-62 lead with 3:59 to play and Bates-Diop hit a jumper with 2:37 left to expand the lead to four points. He later produced a layup that gave OSU a 68-64 lead with 1:49 to play.

After the Lions split a pair of free throws, Bates-Diop rattled a three from the top of the key with a minute left that would have given the Buckeyes a six-point lead.

Instead, it was the Lions who made the key plays down the stretch. They are hoping to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.