In the final non-conference game that seniors Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. will ever play in Columbus, Ohio State asserted themselves strongly from the opening tip against Louisiana-Monroe tonight at Value City Arena, thumping the WarHawks, 71-31.
The Buckeyes opened the game on a 12-2 run, fueled by 8 points from junior LaQuinton Ross before the under-16 timeout. Suffocating defense and a combination of transition buckets and solid perimeter shooting had Thad Matta's squad up 27-7 after the first ten minutes in a game that was never in doubt. It was exactly the kind of game the team needed before heading into Big Ten Play.
Smith and Ross also keyed a run to start the second half. The duo came out of the break to score nine of the team's first twelve points, as the WarHawks failed to score in the first nine and a half minutes of the half. The pair finished the game pacing the Buckeyes in scoring, despite limited minutes in the second half. Smith scored 17, Ross 15, and sophomore Amedeo Della Valle added 14. ULM was so overmatched that the Buckeyes began pulling their starters halfway through the second half, with a 56-20 lead.
ULM shot just 18.5 percent from the floor, and only 3-18 from the three-point line, en route to their lowest scoring output of the season. The team's two leading scorers, Amos Olatayo and Tylor Ongwae, combined to shoot a miserable 3-11 from the floor for just 9 points.
Ohio State freshman Marc Loving got a little extra run as a result, scoring 6 second half points to total 8 for the game, though he fouled out with 3:30 left to play. Amedeo Della Valle added 14 while junior Trey McDonald added 2.
The Warhawks scored just 11 in the second half, shooting just 18.5 percent for the game. Jayon James led the team with 7 points, none of which came after halftime. ULM's top two scorers, Olatayo and Ongwae did not even attempt a shot between them in the final twenty minutes.
Time expired with an O-H-I-O chant making the rounds of Value City Arena, and fan favorite walk-on Jake Lorbach on the court, which is always a good sign for Buckeye fans. Ohio State improves to 13-0, their first perfect non-conference record since the 2010-11 season, and will begin Big Ten play on Tuesday afternoon on the road against Purdue in Mackey Arena at 1:00 p.m.
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