In the first meeting between the teams since 1994, Ohio State started off with a 3-pointer from LaQuinton Ross and never trailed in the game. Thad Matta used the same starting lineup that he had used in the first two games, with Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott, Lenzelle Smith Jr, LaQuinton Ross, and Amir Williams all out there for the tip. The group did not disappoint, sending the Buckeyes out to an early 7-0 lead that forced Ohio coach Jim Christian to call a timeout just 1:49 into the game.
The Bobcats felt the defensive pressure from the Buckeyes early, not putting any points on the board until Stevie Taylor made a jumper at the 14:31 mark of the first half, making the score 9-2. The defensive intensity continued for the Buckeyes, including a sequence that saw blocks from Amadeo Della Valle and Marc Loving on back-to-back Ohio possession which resulted in a Della Valle 3-pointer after the Loving block to make it 13-5 Buckeyes.
Fouls were a problem for the Bobcats throughout the game, with the Buckeyes getting into the bonus just over five minutes into the first half. Ohio committed 14 fouls in the first half, which allowed the Buckeyes to go 16-21 from the charity stripe.
Ohio State built their biggest lead of the first half during a 14-2 run that saw a tough layup from Shannon Scott before the under-12 TV timeout, and Scott finishing the and 1 after the game returned from the break. Less than 20 seconds later came another addition to the Slam Thompson GIF reel, but it wouldn't be the last that Thompson would be heard from during the evening.
The Buckeyes were able to build their biggest lead of the game at 24-7 but Ohio didn't fold up, closing the gap a little before heading into the halftime with the score 40-28. Sam Thompson was the leading scorer for the Buckeyes at halftime with 8 points (adding this gem before the half), while Aaron Craft joined Illinois' Bruce Douglas and Michigan's Gary Grant as the only Big Ten players to accumulate 500 assists and 250 steals during a career. Ohio countered with Stevie Taylor leading the way for the Bobcats with 13 points, and Nick Kellogg put in 9 points with his dad Clark in the crowd at Value City Arena.
After starting the first half so hot from the field, the Buckeyes couldn't catch match that start in the second half, making only three shots from the field in the first 12 minutes of the second half. The good news for Ohio State is that Ohio keep committing personal fouls, allowing the Buckeyes to makeup for their lack of shooting touch. The Bobcats had four players foul out, including three starters, and had two other players with four fouls.
Ohio State finished the game 38-51 from the free throw line, which tied a 1968 game against Washington State for most free throws makes in school history. This wasn't the record for most free throw attempts though, as that happened in 1956 when the Buckeyes attempted 56 free throws against Wisconsin. Nearly half of Ohio State's points came from the free throw line, as they scored 41 points on 18 made field goals. It wasn't all free throws in the second half for the Buckeyes though, as Sam Thompson made another GIFable appearance with a monster dunk.
Ohio was able to close it to 65-60 with four minutes left in the second half, but a Amir Williams bucket eased some of the tension that Buckeye fans were feeling, and a late-game parade to the free throw line by the Buckeyes and a late Lenzelle Smith Jr 3-pointer helped keep the Bobcats at bay. Aaron Craft led the Buckeyes with 18 points (14 of them coming from the free throw line), while Amir Williams posted the second double-double by a Buckeye this year with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Stevie Taylor and Nick Kellogg were the main sources of offense for Ohio, each scoring 21 points in the contest. The 21 points from Taylor, a Gahanna native, were a career-high. The only other Bobcat in double figures was Maurice Ndour, who scored 10 points before fouling out. Along with all the foul problems that Ohio had, the 14 turnovers they committed didn't help their cause.
The Buckeyes will head on the road for the first time this season on Saturday when they head to Marquette for a 1 PM EST tip. Last year these two teams were supposed to meet last year at the Carrier Classic but conditions were deemed too unsafe to play due to condensation and the game was never made up.
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