The Ohio State men’s basketball team missed back-to-back 3-pointers to start the game, but the Buckeyes never relinquished their lead after Marc Loving connected from deep on their third possession.
Loving — a sophomore forward — made another long ball less than three minutes later before the Buckeyes (5-0) opened up an 11-point lead just over five minutes into their 73-56 win against James Madison (4-2) on Friday at the Schottenstein Center. OSU led by double digits for the final 34:57 of the contest.
But despite the perpetual lead, the Buckeyes allowed the Dukes to move within 10 at the half and struggled to shoot the ball throughout the game after starting off 6-for-10 from 3-point range.
Senior forward Sam Thompson said the Buckeyes have to be able to win, even when not shooting well, and proved they have that ability against the Dukes.
“Sometimes you’ve gotta win like that,” Thompson said after the game. “You’re not gonna score 100 points every game, shoot 65 percent. We obviously don’t want to play like that, but … gotta find ways to win.”
OSU shot just 41.3 percent from the field and missed its last eight 3-pointers while turning the ball over 15 times in the game.
Coach Thad Matta said OSU lost energy at times in the game, and added that’s bound to happen from time to time.
“I think every now and then you have a game like this, and just a little bit lackadaisical,” Matta said after the game. “And that was the biggest thing we talked about after the game, was just trusting the system and knowing that it works. And everybody has to do what they’re supposed to do.”
After allowing the Dukes to inch closer at the end of the first half, the Buckeyes opened up an 18-point lead with 15:44 to play after freshman guard D’Angelo Russell found Thompson for an alley-oop.
The dunk moved Thompson past the 700-point mark in his OSU career. His 13 points in the game give him 703 for his time in Columbus.
Even though they were shooting just over 41 percent from the field with 9:17 to play, the Buckeyes held a 21-point lead. James Madison worked back to a 16-point deficit with four minutes to play.
Despite pulling out to a 17-point lead in the first half, the Buckeyes were only up 37-27 at the break after James Madison closed out the opening 20 minutes on a 15-8 run.
OSU finished the half shooting just 46.7 percent from the field. Loving didn’t score in the first half after his early 3-pointers, while Russell led all players with 10 points before the break.
James Madison out-rebounded OSU, 19-18, in the first half and forced eight Buckeye turnovers.
Thompson said the Buckeyes brought down their energy level after starting fast in the first half.
“We got off to a hot start and then for whatever reason we really slowed ourselves down in that last probably 10-12 minutes of the first half,” he said. “And obviously take nothing away from (James Madison), but we thought we stopped attacking, stopped being aggressive on the offensive end.”
On a day when his team had an up-and-down performance despite picking up a 17-point win, Matta said one player in particular — freshman forward Jae’Sean Tate — brought a spark to the Buckeyes off the bench.
“I’d give Jae’Sean Tate the game ball today, just with his energy and just the passion he played with, I thought he was tremendous,” Matta said. “That has to become contagious, we’ve gotta get other guys doing that.”
Tate said he’s embraced the role of spark-plug for the Buckeyes five games into his collegiate career.
“(I’m a) high-motor guy,” Tate said after the game. “I bring the juice, is what coach would say, and I just try to get us a little kick start when we need it.”
Russell scored just four points in the second half but led the Buckeyes with 14 points in the game. Thompson’s 13 made him the only other OSU player to score in double figures. Senior guard Shannon Scott tallied a game-high six assists while senior center Amir Williams led all players with nine rebounds.
James Madison junior guard Andre Nation scored a game-high 15 points while sophomore forward Yohanny Dalembert chipped in with 14 points and eight rebounds.
OSU is scheduled to play its first road game of the season against Louisville in Louisville, Ky., on Tuesday. Tip is set for 9:35 p.m.