Buckeyes turn back Eagles
The Associated Press
COLUMBUS — David Lighty wasn’t thankful for how No. 3 Ohio State played.
That’s why the fifth-year senior said the Buckeyes ought to skip all the turkey and dressing on Thursday.
“We need to practice after today,” he said in disgust after Ohio State struggled for most of the first 35 minutes before beating back Morehead State 64-45 on Tuesday night. “We’ll eat at the gym.”
Another grizzled senior, Jon Diebler, led the way with 20 points and Lighty had 11 to carry the way on a night when nothing seemed to come easy for Ohio State (4-0).
“This is an extended family, so we’re all right with that,” Diebler said of Lighty’s suggestion that the Buckeyes work on their game instead of feeding their faces.
The Buckeyes were without one of their top shooters, junior swingman William Buford, who was held out of the game because of back pain.
Foul trouble and cold shooting against Morehead State’s active, aggressive zone defense hampered Ohio State. It was the older guys — Diebler and Lighty in particular — who made all the big plays when most needed.
“It’s like I told the young guys when they came in this summer,” said Ohio State coach Thad Matta. “I said, ’We’ve got great leadership, but it’s only effective if you allow yourself to be led.’ Those guys, it’s important to them and they want to a better job of leading. That’s huge for us.”
Freshman Deshaun Thomas scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half for the Buckeyes.
Kenneth Faried, battling foul trouble most of the night, had 15 points and 12 rebounds. Ty Proffitt added 12 points for the Eagles (2-3), who had played on even terms at No. 16 Florida before falling 61-55 on Sunday.
Coach Donnie Tyndall came away impressed with the Buckeyes.
“There’s really not a weakness that I see,” he said. “I told Coach Matta before the game that we played Kentucky about this time a year ago and right now Ohio State is a better team than Kentucky was at that time. Now obviously, they were very talented and made a lot of progress throughout the year and won 35 games, but I feel like Ohio State is certainly a team that if they stay healthy they have an opportunity to play for a national championship.”
Freshman point guard Aaron Craft started in place of Buford, who was held out as a precautionary measure after suffering from back spasms in the Buckeyes’ previous game, a 40-point win over UNC-Wilmington. The junior is expected to be back on Friday when the Buckeyes play Miami (Ohio).
Fortunate to be ahead by six points at the half, the Buckeyes turned the ball over on three of their first four possessions on intercepted entry passes to start the second 20 minutes.
The Buckeyes shot 68 percent from the field in the second half, but finished with 16 turnovers.
“We just weren’t as sharp as we needed to be,” Matta said. “The turnovers we had throughout the course of the game — in the second half we only missed seven shots and had eight turnovers.”
Unable to generate much out of its offense, Ohio State finally started finding the range in transition.
Hanging on to a 35-32 lead early in the second half, the Buckeyes scored 11 of the next 14 points with five players getting points. Diebler’s 3-pointer from the left corner at the 7:41 mark made it 49-38.
The Buckeyes were helped when Morehead State’s Faried collected his fourth foul at the 15:17 mark with the Buckeyes up 37-32. With him on the bench, Ohio State scored nine of the next 12 points for some breathing room.
“We competed for about 32 or 34 minutes,” Tyndall said. “Obviously when Faried picked up his fourth foul that was detrimental and hurt our team. They just wore us down the last 6 or 8 minutes of the game.”
Freshman Jared Sullinger, the reigning Big Ten co-player of the week, finished with eight points and eight rebounds but had his troubles early.
Diebler hit 3s in two 7-0 runs to keep Ohio State’s head above water in the opening half.
“This was a good lesson for us,” Matta said. “Thankfully for us, we continued to defend as poorly as we played offensively.”