COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Sam Thompson scored a career-high 22 points and D’Angelo Russell flirted with his second straight triple-double to lead No. 23 Ohio State past Penn State 75-55 on Wednesday night.
Russell, the nation’s top freshman scorer, added 17 points, six rebounds and seven assists for Ohio State (19-6, 8-4 Big Ten), which has won five of six.
D.J. Newbill had 16 points and Brandon Taylor 11 for Penn State (15-10, 3-9), which swept the two-game series last year after losing 18 straight to the Buckeyes.
Ohio State never trailed after streaking to a 12-0 lead.
The Buckeyes were up 37-23 at halftime, and both teams played erratically with the ball to start the second half.
Ohio State finally broke it open when Keita Bates-Diop and Thompson had consecutive three-point plays to push the lead to 56-38 with just more than 10 minutes left.
The Buckeyes dominated from the outset, with some help from a lethargic Penn State offense.
With five players scoring, the Buckeyes put up the first 12 points while holding the Nittany Lions without a point over the opening 6:54.
The Lions scored nine of 11 points during one span to draw as close as 24-16 before Ohio State pulled away for good. Thompson hit a layup off Russell’s assist before Russell made a teardrop and two free throws and Jae’Sean Tate scored inside. After Julian Moore hit a basket for Penn State, Russell poured in a long, arching 3-pointer to make it 35-18.
Thompson’s previous career high was 20 points against Iona in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
The Buckeyes were still without second-leading scorer Marc Loving (11.7 points per game), who has been held out of the last three games for an undisclosed disciplinary reason. Ohio State also didn’t have its starting center the past five games, Anthony Lee, due to a left groin injury. He did not dress.
Penn State: The circumstances heading into the game were very similar to the last meeting in Columbus. The Nittany Lions were just 10-10 overall and 1-6 in the Big Ten when they came to Value City Arena on Jan. 29, 2014, while the Buckeyes were 16-4 and ranked No. 24.
Newbill, who had 25 points, hit a pull-up jumper over Ohio State’s Aaron Craft with 2 seconds left in overtime in Penn State’s 71-70 victory for its first win against the Buckeyes since 1998.
Ohio State: NBA scouts and draft experts have pegged Russell, should he leave the Buckeyes early, as a lottery pick. He is the top-scoring freshman in the nation at 19.5 points a game and, while being watched by dozens of pro scouts on Sunday, posted a triple-double in a 79-60 win at Rutgers.
Russell said Tuesday that he’s not antsy or anxious about the decision he will soon face.
“Not at all. My teammates make it easy for me to stay focused the best way I can,” he said. “We know what we’ve got to do as a team and my individual success has nothing to do with our goals as a team. (I’m) just keeping it that way.”
Penn State: After playing three of their last four on the road, the Nittany Lions head home to face No. 19 Maryland on Saturday and No. 5 Wisconsin next Wednesday.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes play their next two north of the state’s border, traveling to Michigan State on Saturday and Michigan on Feb. 22.
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