With time winding down in Penn State's 69-66 loss to No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday night in Columbus, there was little doubt who was going to have the ball in his hands for the Buckeyes.
Freshman sensation Jared Sullinger took the rock on successive possessions for Ohio State and converted bucket-plus-the-foul plays, burying the Nittany Lions' upset hopes in dramatic fashion in the final two minutes of the game. The young forward finished with 19 points and six rebounds, leading his team to victory and meeting the heroic expectations of Buckeye fans everywhere.
It took Sullinger's spectacular plays for what is expected to become the nation's new No. 1 ranked team when the rankings come out next week to beat Penn State, but that likely serves as little consolation to the Lions, who fall to 10-7 on the season and 3-3 in Big Ten play.
Despite double figure scoring from David Jackson (19 points), Talor Battle (15), Jeff Brooks (11) and Tim Frazier (11) and a 25-15 edge in rebounding, Penn State found itself undone by 14 turnovers and 10 3-point field goals by the Buckeyes.
The Lions were hot from the field, shooting 55% on the afternoon. They also hit at 92% from the free throw line. Unfortunately for Penn State, those trips to the stripe were fewer than they'd likely hoped for considering they found themselves in the bonus with about 10 minutes to play in the second half.
The Lions now look for a road split when they travel to West Lafayette on Wednesday night for a game against No. 8 Purdue at Mackey Arena. The Boilermakers drubbed Penn State 83-68 in the last meeting at the Bryce Jordan Center thanks to a 15 rebound advantage on the boards. After out rebounding Michigan State, Illinois and Ohio State by 20 combined rebounds in the last three games, however, look for the Lions to try and change that.
Overall, the loss was certainly a disappointing one for Penn State, but with 12 games remaining and the performances Penn State has turned in lately, they're still in the thick of the race for an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament. It will take plenty more upsets to get there, but Penn State still isn't dead yet.