After fighting some sluggishness late in the first half, Ohio State was able to pull away from James Madison, thanks to some great three point shooting and timely defense.
The Buckeyes bombed away from three early in the game, hitting six of their first ten three point attempts, to blitz to a 22-9 lead early in the first half. James Madison struggled with the zone defense and the pressure, coughing up the ball often, leading to easy looks for the Buckeyes, which has been typical this season.
7-0, 6-0 and 12-0 runs in the first half helped pace the Buckeye lead, who occasionally struggled with turnovers themselves. Those turnovers, coupled with a lack of ball movement on offense, allowed James Madison to crawl back into the game, as the Dukes only trailed 37-27 at half.
The Buckeyes promptly stomped out any chances for an upset, going on a 12-4 run to open the second half, puncuated by an angry Sam Thompson slam. Ohio State's defense swarmed James Madison, forcing 17 turnovers, and limited them to less than 20% shooting. Ohio State had a balanced attack, with seven different players scoring at least six points.
3 things we learned:
1) It's hard to sustain that killer energy all the time. Playing a slew of overmatched teams early in the season can be a good thing for a squad like Ohio State, which is working on implementing new defensive concepts, and is relying on contributions from several very young players. On the other hand, it can be hard to mentally sustain that energy needed when you aren't being effectively challenged on every possession. James Madison isn't a great team, but they're a cut above Campbell and Sacred Heart, and when the Buckeyes let their focus waiver in the first half, the Dukes were able to attack inside and get within single digits. Ohio State will need to do a better job being consistent throughout the season, or they may lose a game they shouldn't before Big Ten play, and certainly within it.
2) Ohio State can shoot, but probably won't shoot like it has early. It feels weird continuing to repeat this, but the scars from the last two seasons are deep. After having to rely on one, or heck, no three point shooters, the Buckeyes have spacing in spades, thanks to D'Angelo Russell, Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson and Marc Loving. Ohio State hit six three balls in the first half, and by playing two strong ballhandlers in Russell and Scott at the same time, those looks are going to continue to be there. The team's hot start regressed to the mean a little bit today, but with ball movement, the quality looks are still going to be there for the Buckeyes, and it's still a marketable improvement from last season.
3) No seriously, no more Black Friday games. Maybe there is an economic argument for playing in the afternoon the day after Thanksgiving, but if you're not playing a great team, you're asking for a sluggish effort, and that's what Ohio State fans got during significant portions of this game, as the game had over 30 turnovers combined. It's not worth the risk. Let's schedule those paycheck games a little farther away from the holidays next time, no?