The Ohio State men's basketball team didn't always look super motivated but still managed to play their way to a 76-64 victory Wednesday night in their third contest of the Gotham Classic against the Delaware Blue Hens after overcoming some early offensive struggles and even a first half deficit.
A game that began with an Aaron Craft steal also started with some sluggish play from an Ohio State team that came in with one of the best average victory margins in the country (21.6).
The Buckeyes' three steals in the opening minutes against the Delaware Blue Hens were their only source of early offense as the Blue Hen guards came out firing in the Schottenstein Center. Senior guard Davon Usher hit on a quick five points out of the gate and fellow senior Devon Saddler came off the bench to give a scoring boost as well.
With a little over three minutes to play in the first half, Delaware led by the score of 26-25 and looked to have good control of the pace of the game. It appeared that the light went on at that moment for the Buckeyes as they picked up their defensive intensity and proceeded to take control of the game. Another Aaron Craft rip led to a transition bucket from LaQuinton Ross and Amedeo Della Valle sparked the crowd by taking a rebound coast to coast and finishing for a strong basket, plus the foul.
The Buckeyes finished the half on a 12-0 run to take a 37-26 lead going into the break.
The Blue Hens did not back down in the second despite Ohio State's dominance in the painted area. The Buckeyes out-rebounded Delaware by a 46-30 margin, but Delaware's perimeter shooting kept them in it. Junior guard Kyle Anderson converted on three second half 3-pointers, most of which were contested. Junior guard Jarvis Threatt also added another 14 points and caused issues for Ohio State with his dribble penetration all night long.
The Blue Hens were able to cut a one time 16-point Ohio State all the way down to eight, but the Buckeyes were never really threatened in this one.
LaQuinton Ross had another stellar performance filling up the hoop with 19 points and six rebounds, but it was the sophomore guard from Italy, Amedeo Della Valle that impressed most in the second half. Della Valle's two 3-pointers in the second half helped to stymie Blue Hen runs and he even added three rebounds and two blocks on the defensive end. He finished with 10 points.
Five Buckeyes finished in double figures once again, highlighted by senior guard Aaron Craft appearing to be everywhere on the floor. When the Buckeyes needed a spark to the offense, Craft was there at a moment's notice strip an opposing player and start a break. Already the all-time leader in Ohio State history in steals, Craft now has his eyes set on the Big Ten record of 324 steals. His four steals against Delaware out him at third all-time in the Big Ten record books.
Blue Hen guard Devon Saddler finished the game with 17 points in a losing effort.
Ohio State moves to 11-0 and will head to Madison Square Garden in New York City to face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday night.
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