NEW YORK — With ninth-seeded Penn State trailing by a point and the clock ticking off the final 10 seconds, almost everyone in Madison Square Garden was waiting for Big Ten Conference leading scorer Tony Carr to launch a game-winning shot attempt against second-seeded Ohio State.
It was a no-brainer, until Carr decided otherwise.
Carr found Josh Reaves for a game-winning dunk with 3.1 seconds to play and Penn State may have punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a 69-68 victory over Ohio State in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament Friday night.
“It was ‘Fist Two,’ basically try to get the mismatch and I was just trying to make a play,” Carr said. “And Josh basically made the play. He made a great cut. I was just out there dribbling around. Josh made a great play. And I thank God I found him.”
It was a great ending in more ways than one. The Nittany Lions (22-12) scored the final five points in beating the 13th-ranked Buckeyes for the third time this season and advancing to today’s semifinal against No. 8 Purdue.
The game-winning play was set up when Shep Garner made a crucial steal from conference player of the year Keita Bates-Diop with 21 seconds to play.
Penn State elected not to call a timeout and coach Patrick Chambers called out a play.
“I just noticed my man wasn’t looking at me so I took advantage of that,” Reaves said. “And Tony just shows how much of a great player he is to find an open man in a time like that. I was just fortunate enough to make the dunk.”
Lamar Stevens added 15 points for Penn State and Garner had 13
Ohio State (24-8) had a chance to win after calling a timeout, but a last-second shot by C.J. Jackson was not close.
“Give Penn State credit, I thought they made the necessary plays down the stretch,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “Tough back-and-forth game. We’ll learn from it and get ready for the tournament.”
Bates-Diop carried the Buckeyes in the second half, scoring 17 of his 25 points. However, all he is probably going to remember is losing the ball with 21 seconds to go and his team ahead 68-67.
Kam Williams and Jae’Sean Tate each added 10 points for the Buckeyes, who will wait for their invitation to the NCAA Tournament in a little more than a week.
Ohio State, which was blown out by Penn State 79-56 on Feb. 15, rallied from deficits of eight points early in the second half and six with just under eight minutes to go, riding Bates-Diop, who seemingly wanted the ball on every position.
A layup by Andre Wesson gave the Buckeyes a 64-62 lead with 3:59 to play and Bates-Diop hit a jumper with 2:37 left to expand the lead to four points.
A dunk by Julian Moore off a feed from Carr cut the margin to 66-64 with 2:09 to play but Bares-Diop hit a layup with 1:49 left to make it 68-64. It would be the last points for Ohio State.
Carr made one of two free throws with 1:33 to go and Reaves, who finished with nine points on 2-of-12 shooting, cut the lead to 68-67 with two free throws with 47 seconds to play after Bates-Diop missed a 3-pointer.
Ohio State called a timeout, but Garner’s steal near the foul line set the stage for another Penn State win.
Penn State: Has not been to the NCAAs since 2011, but with three wins over a ranked Ohio State it might be enough.
Ohio State: Better hope it doesn’t play Penn State in the NCAA Tournament.
Penn State: Faces the winner of the quarterfinal between third-seeded and No. 8 Purdue and 14th-seeded Rutgers.
Ohio State: Waits for the NCAA to call a week from Sunday.
Penn State 69, Ohio State 68
PENN STATE (21-12): Harrar 1-3 0-0 2, Stevens 4-14 6-7 15, Garner 4-7 2-2 13, Reaves 2-12 4-4 9, Carr 9-17 3-5 25, Moore 2-2 1-2 5, Wheeler 0-1 0-0 0, Bostick 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 22-58 16-20 69.
OHIO STATE (24-8): Tate 4-9 1-1 10, Bates-Diop 10-20 3-4 25, K.Wesson 2-6 1-3 5, Jackson 1-6 2-2 5, Williams 4-8 0-0 10, A.Wesson 3-4 1-1 8, Potter 1-4 0-0 3, Dakich 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 26-59 8-11 68.
Halftime—Penn State 33-32. 3-Point Goals—Penn State 9-19 (Carr 4-7, Garner 3-6, Stevens 1-2, Reaves 1-4), Ohio State 8-23 (Williams 2-4, Bates-Diop 2-5, Tate 1-1, A.Wesson 1-2, Potter 1-4, Jackson 1-5, Dakich 0-1, K.Wesson 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Penn State 37 (Reaves, Stevens 7), Ohio State 26 (Tate 7). Assists—Penn State 14 (Carr 5), Ohio State 16 (Jackson 6). Total Fouls—Penn State 15, Ohio State 18.