- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Thad Matta didn’t have a whole lot of answers.

Regardless of the question thrown at him after No. 24 Ohio State lost 71-70 in overtime to Penn State on Wednesday night, it was clear the Buckeyes coach was at a loss to explain what has happened to his team.

Since starting 15-0 and rising to No. 3 in the nation, the Buckeyes have lost five of their last six games. The latest loss came to a team Ohio State had beaten in the last 18 meetings. Matta was 17-0 against the Nittany Lions since coming into the Big Ten in 2004-05.

Now, with 10 games to go in the season, he must find some solutions.

“Obviously, I don’t like the position we’re in but it’s reality,” Matta said. “We put ourselves here. We’ve got to fight our way out of this.”

The latest defeat was a stunner, partly because the Buckeyes blew an 11-point lead with 8 minutes left and partly because it came against a team that hadn’t won in Columbus in 13 years. For that matter, the Nittany Lions haven’t had much luck regardless of location, winning just seven times in 37 Big Ten games since Patrick Chambers took over as head coach three years ago.

But that all changed when D.J. Newbill hit the decisive shot.

Newbill hit a pull-up jumper over Aaron Craft with 2 seconds left in overtime for the winning points. He had hit a 3 with 13 seconds left in regulation to force the extra session.

“We weren’t the tougher basketball team,” said Craft, a senior. “We had the ball, a chance to go up three and we turn the ball over. They go down, and they have guys who make plays. And they did it.”

Newbill was up to the challenge.

“There were 11 seconds left, we were down by one. I just cleared out one side of the floor,” he said. “I knew they were going to try to stop me from going to the right because they’d been shading me left the whole game. I just made a quick, right-to-left crossover and pulled up with confidence. Fortunately, it went down.”

Newbill led the Nittany Lions (11-10, 2-6 Big Ten) with 25 points.

He didn’t know, or even care, who was guarding him on the last shot. Craft is considered one of the nation’s best one-on-one defenders.

“They did everything they needed to down the stretch,” Craft said. “They made shots, they made big plays, they rebounded the ball. We just didn’t do it.”

It didn’t matter to the Nittany Lions that Ohio State had controlled the series for a dozen years.

“We never mentioned it. That’s over. We’re a new team,” Chambers said. “We can’t be concerned about the past.”

Ohio State made only one field goal over the last 8:29 of regulation. Then, in the overtime, it led by three points and had the ball with 90 seconds remaining and couldn’t hang on.

In the overtime, Taylor gave the Lions a quick lead on a follow before Amir Williams, who had 12 points, hit a free throw and Lenzelle Smith Jr., who had 15 for the Buckeyes, put his team up 68-67.

Smith was then hit in the face while shooting a 3 and made the last two of the three free throws for a three-point lead.

After the teams traded misses, Newbill ended up with the ball atop the key with the shot clock winding down. He drove the lane and got off the layup just in time to cut the lead to 70-69 with 39.4 seconds left.

The Buckeyes then turned it over when LaQuinton Ross, who led Ohio State with 16 points, drove and passed in traffic to Williams, the ball going out of bounds off his hands with 13 seconds left.

Penn State brought the ball down with Newbill waving off his teammates to take the ball one-on-one against Craft. From the right wing, he crossed over on the dribble and pulled up for a 14-foot jumper that caught nothing but net with 2 seconds left.

“He had a tough pull-up when Aaron had him in front of him,” Matta said. “Yeah, that was a tough shot.”

After an Ohio State timeout, Craft took the inbounds pass and drove over midcourt but was unable to get off a shot before the buzzer sounded.

Smith, the only other senior on the team other than Craft, was both angry and disappointed about his team’s recent failures.

“As a senior, this is not what I had in mind,” he said. “A Top 25 team at home doesn’t lose these games. And we lost.”


Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP

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