Ohio State vs. Penn State went down to the final seconds on Friday night in the Big Ten Tournament. But before Penn State’s last second dunk, before the Lions’ best player passed the ball instead of shooting in the final seconds, it was a matchup between two of the Big Ten’s biggest stars.
Tony Carr single-handedly won several games for Penn State this season, and his Penn State team will take on Purdue on Saturday. Keita Bates-Diop was the Big Ten Player of the Year leading a resurgent Ohio State program that was supposed to be some shade of awful, and his Ohio State team came up just short. They weren’t often matched up against each other, but that didn’t matter.
Tony Carr vs. Keita Bates-Diop lived up to expectations
Here’s the side-by-side box score from this game:
This isn’t about who played better on Friday night. Bates-Diop and Carr both dominated. They did exactly what they’ve done all season, and that’s what made this game fun. In a plodding Big Ten conference, these supremely productive players matched each other stride for stride.
They both ended with 25 points on at least 50 percent shooting. And each did what makes him great.
Tony Carr was ball-dominant, aggressive and occasionally spectacular
Carr has been outstanding in each of Penn State’s three (!!) wins over Ohio State this season. Friday night was just more of the same.
Carr holds the ball for long stretches on almost every Penn State possession, but he does it for a reason. He’s shifty enough that most defenders can’t keep up with him if he keeps attempting moves like this one he put on Andrew Dakich, and Ohio State freshman center Kaleb Wesson was unable to properly contest his shot at the rim.
Carr probably draws some flak for his shooting percentage, which only sits at 42. But while he shoots 39 percent on 2-pointers, he’s an impressive 47 percent on threes. Carr isn’t afraid to employ those same ball-dominant tactics even when he’s on the outside, and will hoist a shot in front of anyone. Here, he takes C.J. Jackson out with his footwork, then knocks this three down as the Ohio State guard races back to meet him. Swish.
But calling Carr a ballhog doesn’t seem fair. He had 6 assists on the night, and came into the game sporting solid assist percentage of 28 and a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. When Ohio State’s defenders understandably rushed him with only five seconds on the clock, Carr gave the ball up to Josh Reaves.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) March 3, 2018
The result? A Penn State win.
“I was definitely tired by, like, the 5-minute mark,” Carr said after the game. “But we put in so much work this offseason and I wanted to win so bad, so you dig down deep.”
Keita Bates-Diop was smooth from deep, good inside and impressive on D
Ohio State’s star was every bit Carr’s equal. He was 2-for-4 on threes and 10-for-20 overall, and did everything he could to bring Ohio State the win. Penn State didn’t have anyone who could guard him, and didn’t supply any sort of help defense to save Julian Moore.
Bates-Diop has been doing this all year for the Buckeyes, and it’s why he was the conference’s player of the year. He added 5 rebounds and 2 assists to that 25-point total, and none of his teammates had more than 10 points. Ohio State fans will probably remember this game as a the most annoying of three disappointing losses against Penn State. That’s fair, but they should also remember it for one of their star player’s best efforts of his career.
“It was good to see,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said after the game. “I thought he really attacked and played stronger and didn’t settle and played with more force. All those things were good to see … I was proud of Keita for that.”
Big Ten basketball was in a bad place for most of this season. This was a bright spot.
The conference often lived up to its stereotype of slow, plodding, unskilled basketball. This wasn’t one of those times. The conference’s two biggest stars shined on Friday night, and we got to enjoy it.
The Big Ten Tournament can still give us better matchups in terms of overall skill and quality. Most fans won’t bristle at a chance to see Michigan State and Purdue play again. But they might not see two individual performances more vital than these.