Hours after number one ranked Arizona was able to win in Ann Arbor, second ranked Ohio State kept pace with a 79-62 win over North Dakota State in Columbus on Saturday night. The Buckeyes were led by 18 points each from LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr as they fought off some early peskiness from North Dakota State to eventually break away and stay perfect on the season. The trademark defense that the Buckeyes have exhibited so far this season held true on Saturday night, and now Thad Matta's team has held all ten opponents they have played this year under 70 points.
The weather outside in Columbus may have been rainy and sloppy, but the performance from the Buckeyes was anything but. Ohio State's first three baskets in the basketball games were three-pointers, and they finished the first half 6-11 from behind the arc. Three of those three-pointers came from LaQuinton Ross, who two of them coming within a minute and a half after North Dakota State had pulled to within 31-26 with three minutes left in the first half. Ross finished the first half as Ohio State's leading scorer with 13 points. North Dakota State had kept within shouting distance of the Buckeyes for most of the half before Ross created the distance in the score, and the Bison went into the half trailing, 41-28.
The Buckeyes didn't just see success from behind the arc in the first half, as evidenced by the first addition of the nightto the Sam Thompson GIF reel. Thompson and freshman Marc Loving both came off the bench to contribute 6 points each to the Buckeye lead. Loving had some stretches of strong play during the first half, and deservedly had Big Ten Network announcers Tom Hamilton and Stephen Bardo gushing over what the future might hold for the young Toledo standout.
Both teams saw a starter hampered with early foul trouble just under 10 minutes into the first half. Shannon Scott picked up his second foul at the 9:19 mark and was forced to the bench. Just 34 seconds later Marshall Bjorklund was also forced to the bench when he was called for his second foul. North Dakota State's leading scorer from their upset victory over Notre Dame on Wednesday night did see some action late in the first half, but didn't have much of an effect on the action. Taylor Braun, the preseason favorite for Summit League Player of the Year, did his best to pick up the slack for the Bison, and paced the team with 9 points.
The second half was started by Aaron Craft breaking Jamar Butler's Ohio State record for career assists, dishing out his 580th career helper to LaQuinton Ross on the first bucket of the half. Craft finished the game with assists. The Buckeyes didn't let up after Craft was able to set the record, evenutally opening up a 20-point lead to put to bed any hopes that North Dakota State had of a second straight upset.
The second half featured yet another Sam Thompson GIFable moment. The monster dunk from Thompson was not too long after Marshall Bjorklund was called for a flagrant foul while grabbing Thompson up high. Thompson and Loving each scored another 6 points each. The duo look to be comfortable in their roles of coming of the bench and giving the Buckeyes the added energy and athleticism.
The only thing that really might have concerned Buckeye fans during the second half was when Amir Williams looked to be hobbled after stepping on Marshall Bjorklund's foot following a layup. The concern was short-lived though, as Williams was back on the floor quickly and showed no signs of any lingering injury the rest of the game. Compared to some of his recent performances, Williams was rather quiet offensively with only 4 points, but he did grab a team-high 9 rebounds for the Buckeyes.
While North Dakota State is the favorite in the Summit League, the Buckeyes were just too much for them in this game. Some of that could have been due to travel, as the Bison has been on the road since traveling to South Bend on Tuesday. This could be a loss that helps the veteran Bison team down the road to learn from come tournament time. The bright spot for North Dakota State on the evening was Braun, who finished with 21 points in the game. Even though Marshall Bjorklund was saddled with foul trouble for most of the first half, he did end up as the second leading scorer for the Bison with 12 points.
The Buckeyes ended the game shooting 52.9% from the field, marking the fifth straight game that they have shot over 50%. They'll try and extend that streak when they return to the court for another game in the Black Rock Gotham Classic on Wednesday night when they host Delaware. Then the classic will come to a conclusion next Saturday night when the Buckeyes head to Brooklyn to take on Notre Dame at 7:30 PM EST.
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