Buckeyes Make Quick Work of Catamounts at St. John Arena
By John Porentas
No. 2 Ohio State (8-0) opened the game with a 13-2 run then never looked back in posting an easy 85-60 win over Western Carolina (4-8) at St. John Arena on a snowy day in Columbus.
Western Carolina shot 50 percent in the first half and held a 17-11 rebounding edge at the intermission yet still trailed 42-25 when the half ended. Their strong shooting percentage was offset by the fact that they got up only 20 shots. That was due largely to 14 first half turnovers forced by a harassing Buckeye defense. OSU meanwhile had zero turnovers in the first half and accumulated 12 assists on 13 made baskets. The Buckeyes also converted on 12 of 16 free throws while West Carolina got to the free throw line for just three attempts making two of them.
"I thought today we came out with a little bit more intensity to our defense," said OSU Head Coach Thad Matta.
"The biggest thing was trying to get guys to understand we had to extend, to push up a little bit. I thought we were a little more aware off the ball."
The beginning of the second half was nearly an identical mirror of the first. The Buckeyes opened the half with a 10-2 run that made the score 55-33, and for all intents and purposes, the outcome of the game was decided.
"They came right out and jumped on us both halves. I thought they started both halves very, very strong," said Catamount Head Coach Larry Hunter.
"The main thing he (Matta) said was it's zero-zero," added OSU freshman center Jared Sullinger.
"We've got to come out and play like it's the beginning of the game again," said Sullinger of Matta's half time message.
The Buckeyes led by as many as 35 in the second half and OSU Head Coach Thad Matta used the one-sided game as an opportunity to get minutes for his much-heralded freshman class. Sullinger, who is an OSU starter, logged 22 minutes, but fellow freshmen Deshaun Thomas, Jordan Sibert and Aaron Craft all also logged double-digit minutes. Thomas got 25, Craft, 21 and Sibert 18. Additionally, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and J.D. Witherspoon each got nine minutes of play. The Buckeyes played long stretches of the second half with four or even five freshmen on the court.
"It was by design. I think the more we can build our bench the better off we will be," said Matta of the playing time his youngsters got.
"Those guys have been working hard in practice and we're seeing improvement in them. The more we can get them (on the floor) and give guys a quick break now and then, the more it helps us."
Five Buckeyes reached double figures in scoring. Sullinger had a team-high 17, Dallas Lauderdale, William Buford and Thomas had 13 apiece, and Jon Diebler had 10. Western Carolina guard Mike Williams led all scorers with 22 that included four of six shooting from three point range.
After allowing Western Carolina to shoot 50 percent in the first half the Buckeye defense cranked up the heat in the second half and limited Western Carolina to 37.8 percent shooting from the field. The Buckeyes meanwhile shot 55.6 percent in the second half after hitting 48.1 percent in the first half.
For the game, the Catamounts out rebounded OSU 39-26, but they also turned the ball over 20 times. The Buckeyes meanwhile were guilty of just six turnovers. OSU also outscored Western Carolina 22-5 from the free throw line.
OSU's upper classmen all made significant contributions in ways in addition to their scoring. Buford had a team-high five assists and tied for the team lead in rebounding with six. Diebler added three assists and three steals to his scoring. Lauderdale also had six rebounds and a blocked shot. David Lighty, who scored six points, also had four assists, a blocked shot and a steal.
Season Stats Year to Date
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