COLUMBUS, Ohio — Standing on the foul line with the game hanging in the balance, Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell had no doubt what to do.
“I iced it,” he said.
Liddell scored 22 points, including the tiebreaking free throws with 59.7 seconds left, and No. 13 Ohio State held off Penn State 83-79 on Wednesday night.
The Buckeyes (13-4, 7-4 Big Ten) squandered a 12-point first-half lead but rallied from an eight-point deficit in the second for their second consecutive victory and fourth in five games.
Liddell hit four clutch free throws in the final minute, sealing it with two from the line with a second to play.
“I was just emphasizing in the last four-minute war that it’s winning time,” Liddell said. “There’s no better feeling than to win it for the team.”
Justice Seuing had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Buckeyes. Zed Key went 5 for 5 from the field and converted his only free throw to finish with 11 points.
Kyle Young also had a perfect shooting night for Ohio State, scoring 10 points on 3 for 3 from the field and the free throw line before fouling out with 5:01 left.
“Players win games,” Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann said. “They found a way there. We executed much better late. I thought we got what we wanted, for the most part.
“Our guys made plays down the stretch.”
Seth Lundy paced Penn State (5-7, 2-6) with 26 points.
Penn State, whose season has been peppered with COVID-19-related postponements – including this game, originally set for Jan. 6 – dropped its fifth straight on the road. Rust showed through from the opening tip, as the Nittany Lions had two airballs among their first nine shots.
But sloppy Ohio State play and scrappy defense helped Penn State grab the momentum at the end of the first half, as Jamari Wheeler nabbed two steals within the final 30 seconds, getting the Nittany Lions within four to end the half down 43-39.
The Buckeyes committed 17 turnovers that led to 23 Penn State points.
Penn State hung tough throughout the second half, off the shooting of its lone sophomore, Lundy, whose 26 points were his most ever in a Big Ten game. Izaiah Brockington added 18 points and John Harrar had 15 points and 10 boards, his eighth game with double-figure rebounds.
“That was a great college basketball game,” Penn State interim coach Jim Ferry said. “You have to give credit to Ohio State, making one more play than we did.”
Top scorers were shut down at both ends of the court. Buckeyes leader Duane Washington Jr., averaging 15.3 points, was held to just eight points on 2-for-11 shooting. Penn State’s top scorer, Myreon Jones, who averages 15.9 points, was held to 10.
Ohio State’s early dominance dissipated with sloppy play and shutdown defense by Penn State, but Liddell rallied the Buckeyes in the final minute for a tough Big Ten win.
Purdue hosts Wisconsin on Saturday.
Ohio State hosts Michigan State on Sunday.