AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS — Marc Loving scored 24 points, JaQuan Lyle added 22 and Ohio State used a late 7-0 run to hold off Penn State 79-75 at the Big Ten tournament Thursday.
The Buckeyes (20-12) have won six of their last eight as they try make a late push into next week’s NCAA Tournament. They’ll face No. 2 Michigan State on Friday.
Shep Garner scored 25 points and Donovon Jack had 18 for the Nittany Lions (16-16), who lost for the third time in seven games.
The Buckeyes looked like they would pull away after taking a 61-54 lead with 8:07 to go.
But Garner capped a 13-5 run by making two free throws with 4:12 remaining to give Penn State a 67-66 lead.
Ohio State retook control after Loving made 3 of 4 free throws to start the closing run and Lyle followed that with back-to-back baskets for a 73-67 lead. The Nittany Lions never had a chance to tie it or take the lead again.
It was a strange day at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, with Michigan beating Northwestern in overtime and Illinois fending off a late 11-0 run to upset No. 20 Iowa in the first two games.
The third game fit right in.
Penn State had the lead for most of the first half.
But the Buckeyes finished the half on a 9-2 spurt to get within 37-34 and opened the second half on a 14-2 spurt to take the lead.
Penn State fought back and forced Ohio State to close it out at the free-throw line, where it went 26 of 39.
Buckeyes coach Thad Matta extended his streak of consecutive 20-win seasons at Ohio State to 12. But Matta has been done better than that. In 16 seasons as a head coach — one at Butler, three at Xavier and 12 at Ohio State — he has never won fewer than 20 games in a single season.
Nittany Lions: Brandon Taylor was the only other player to reach double figures. He had 14 points. … Coach Patrick Chambers wore sneakers with his suit Thursday. … This was the first time in tourney history Penn State got a first-round bye. … The Nittany Lions were averaging 9.6 3s and giving up 6.0 in their previous five games. It was more of the same Thursday. Penn State wound up 9 of 22 from beyond the arc while Ohio State was 5 of 14.
Buckeyes: Have won at least one game in the conference tourney in 11 of the last 13 years. Ohio State also has won 23 of its last 30 tourney games. … Ohio State had a 41-33 rebounding advantage. … Loving also won over the fans when he started cleaning up a wet spot, then picked up the towel he was using and wiped his face with it before tossing it aside.
Nittany Lions: Await postseason fate.
Buckeyes: Face No. 2 Michigan State in the third quarterfinal game Friday.