A record-breaking night from Jon Diebler has No. 1 Ohio State one win away from an outright Big Ten title.
The senior guard tied a Big Ten record with 10 three-pointers and the Buckeyes cruised to an 82-61 victory at Penn State. Already recognized as the Big Ten’s all-time leader in three-pointers, the senior went 10 for 12 from behind the arc to finish with a career-high 30 points.
His 10 three-pointers set a record for a PSU opponent in the Bryce Jordan Center and tied a conference record for most in a single game. His final trey came with 2:35 remaining and made it a 77-52 lead in favor of the visitors.
“It just seems like the basket is an ocean,” he told the Big Ten Network.
After hitting his first three-pointer on a step-back shot 3:01 into the game, Diebler misfired on his second attempt a few moments later. He would not miss again until the waning minutes of the game, hitting on nine straight. When he was removed from the game, he received a standing ovation from the PSU crowd.
“I told Jon today at shootaround, we had a stretch where we made 16 straight,” OSU head coach Thad Matta told The Ohio State Basketball Radio Network. “I said, ‘We’re going to make shots.’ I said, ‘Give me 20-plus (points)’ and he listened. A couple of them were deep. He really did a great job of staying within the system and knocking shots down.”
The Nittany Lions (15-13, 9-9 Big Ten) opened things up defensively by double-teaming OSU freshman forward Jared Sullinger every time he touched the ball in the paint. The method helped hold him to six first-half points, but it opened the door for a big night from Diebler.
Although Diebler entered the game with a streak of at least one three-pointer made in each of his last 45 games, he had not hit more than three in one game since going 4 for 8 at Iowa on Jan. 4 -- OSU’s second Big Ten game of the season. Diebler had hit 10 three-pointers in his previous five games combined.
In all, 10 Buckeyes have now hit on seven or more three-pointers in one game. Six of those performances are Diebler’s.
Diebler entered the game recognized as the Big Ten’s career leader in three-pointers with 338, but Michigan’s Louis Bullock hit 339 but the mark had been vacated due to NCAA sanctions. He now stands alone at the top with 348.
He got plenty of help from junior guard William Buford, who had 21 points and went about it the old-fashioned way. Of his nine field goals, all but one came inside the three-point arc as he went 9 of 14 from the field. Sullinger still finished with a double-double at 10 points and 10 rebounds as he took a backseat to Diebler’s blazing performance.
With the win, the Buckeyes (28-2, 15-2) maintained their one-game lead on Purdue with one game left to play in the season. The Boilermakers kept pace earlier in the afternoon with a 75-67 home victory against Illinois. OSU will close the regular season Sunday with a home contest against Wisconsin while Purdue’s season will end one day prior with a road game against Iowa.
An outright conference crown would be OSU’s first since the 2006-07 season. That team advanced all the way to the national championship game before falling to Florida.
Asked if he had mentioned clinching the title to his team after the game, Matta said, “Oh yeah. No question about it, (but) only from the standpoint of the position that we’ve put ourselves in. For me to waste my breath and talk about Wisconsin coming in on Sunday, our guys know that.”
A raucous crowd on hand for senior night enjoyed the first two minutes and not much else. The Buckeyes, who entered the game leading the Big Ten in turnover margin at plus-5.66 with an average of 10.5 turnovers per game, committed two on their first three possessions. The Nittany Lions were then able to crack the scoreboard first with a pair of free throws from senior center Andrew Jones at the 18:03 mark.
The Buckeyes quickly responded with a 7-0 run ignited by a tough shot from Buford. After catching the ball on the left wing about 15 feet from the basket, he spun and fired up a shot off the glass that banked through the rim to get his team on the board.
It was a move he would go to often in the first half as he was matched up in the post with sophomore Tim Frazier. Buford is listed at 6-5, 190 pounds; Frazier at 6-1, 160.
The Buckeyes held a 33-18 lead at the break, but the Nittany Lions got one final chance to cut into the deficit after a deep three-point miss from senior Talor Battle.
After Diebler corralled the rebound with less than a second remaining, he tossed it to freshman Deshaun Thomas who then launched it downcourt as the horn sounded. However, an official had blown the whistle when Diebler landed, and after a video review it was determined that the senior had landed on the baseline. Seven-tenths of a second were put back on the clock and the Nittany Lions were awarded possession.
Given one last shot to grab a piece of momentum headed into the break, a lob toward the basket was tipped by the Buckeyes and the half came to a close. Battle would go on to lead his team with 18 points on 7 of 14 shooting.
The 18 points were PSU’s lowest for a half this season, but they scored 43 in the final stanza.
“(In the) first half I thought we played some of the best defense we’ve played,” Matta said. “Second half, we said, ‘Let’s trade buckets here and have a good time.’ ”