Cody Cousino / Photo editor
The Ohio State men’s basketball team took a page out of the football team’s playbook and got off to what many would consider a slow start Monday, but it didn’t matter as the Buckeyes eventually cruised to a 85-50 victory at the Schottenstein Center.
Coach Thad Matta wasn’t satisfied with the team’s original effort, but said he was pleased with the improvement as the game went on.
“I’m not exactly sold we got off to the start we particularly wanted,” Matta said. “I had to get on some guys in a timeout in the first half and I thought we really responded from that.”
OSU struggled to find their offensive rhythm early in the game. Defensively the Buckeyes were turning the Ospreys over at a high rate, but struggled shooting the ball, especially from 3-point range.
With 10:36 in the first half, OSU had forced 7 turnovers, but was just 2-of-8 from the 3-point line and the Buckeyes had a 15-12 lead.
“We didn’t come out with no juice,” sophomore forward Jared Sullinger said. “No energy. No intensity. We kind of came out there expecting to win.
“Obviously it showed in the first half.”
The Ospreys hung around for much of the half, but OSU started to abandon the outside shot and worked the ball inside to Sullinger and sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas.
The strategy worked.
OSU went on a quick 10-2 run to take a 34-21 lead and the outcome was never again in doubt.
“Coach always say we get good shots when we get it inside,” Thomas said. “When we throw it to (Sullinger) and me our percentages are up. It was one of our goals.”
The Buckeyes took a 45-26 lead into the half with Sullinger and Thomas leading the way with 16 and 13 points respectively.
But Thomas and Sullinger took a back seat to sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. early in the second half.
Smith, who already got the crowd going with a high-flying dunk in the first half, stole the ball, sprinted into the open court, and dumped the ball off to a trailing senior guard William Buford at the last second, who finished with a one-handed jam.
The next possession, Smith caught the ball on the left wing, pump-faked his man, drove to the baseline and dunked right over a UNF player.
Both plays came in transition, an area Smith feels he excels.
“I think I’m a pretty fast guy,” Smith said. “Anytime I get a steal or if I get a rebound, I feel I can usually if not create for myself, create for my teammates.”
Smith finished with seven points and five rebounds and five assists.
Overall the Buckeyes had three players score in double figures. Sullinger was the high-point man with 27 points and 13 rebounds. He now has over 700 points in his career.
Thomas finished with 16 points and six rebounds. Buford added 13 points, five rebounds and four assists.
The win came despite OSU shooting just 24 percent from behind the arc and 47 percent from the field.
The Buckeye defense seemed to make up for the below-average shooting. The team forced 23 turnovers as the Ospreys shot 39 percent from the field and 24 percent from the 3-point line.
UNF coach Matthew Driscoll said it’s OSU’s defense that separates them from most teams in the nation.
“(The Buckeyes) really, really have a chance to make that next step to get back to the Final Four because of their defense,” Driscoll said. “They’re a much better defensive team than you guys give them credit for.”
OSU’s record improved to 4-0 on the year. The Buckeyes next play the Virginia Military Institute Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.