Two three-pointers to start the game from D'Angelo Russell helped the Buckeyes jump out to an early 6-0 lead on the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks, and Thad Matta's team didn't look back as they rebounded from Saturday afternoon's loss to North Carolina. Ohio State used a 17-0 run in the middle of the first half to open up a 34-9 lead on the RedHawks with 7:41 left.
John Cooper's team showed some fight though after being put into an early deficit, responding with a 15-2 run of their own to close the gap to 36-22 as the Buckeyes let their foot off the gas after building such a big lead. The under-4 timeout gave Thad Matta a chance to refocus his team and the Buckeyes ended the half on a 9-2 run behind a couple baskets from Amir Williams to head into the break with a 46-24 lead.
The most concerning news of the first 20 minutes came when Anthony Lee went down with 6:45 in the first half after he was battling for a rebound and came down awkwardly on his ankle. Lee had to be helped off the floor by the training staff and couldn't put any weight on his ankle, and later it was announced that he wouldn't return to the game because of a sprained ankle.
The Buckeyes picked right up where they left off to start the second half, using a couple Marc Loving three-pointers and five points from D'Angelo Russell to start the second half on a 11-2 run to extend their lead to 57-26 lead. The Buckeyes didn't let the RedHawks cut into the lead that much, as they used some strong bench play the rest of the way to send the team home for Christmas on a high note. With Kam Williams, Jae'Sean Tate, and Keita Bates-Diop leading the way, the Ohio State bench registered 46 points in the game.
3 things we learned
1. Marc Loving is starting to come into his own.
After leading the Buckeyes on Saturday in the loss to North Carolina with 19 points, Marc Loving continued his recent strong play, While his shots weren't falling in the first half, he was successful at getting to the free throw line and hitting all six of his free throw attempts on his way to eight points in the first half. To go along with those points, Loving grabbed a career-high seven rebounds in the first half. Loving found his range in the second half, coming out of the halftime break hitting two three-pointers to help the Buckeyes extend the lead. Loving finished the game with 16 points for the Buckeyes, which marks the third straight game where the sophomore has scored at least 15 points.
2. D'Angelo Russell doesn't dwell on bad games too long.
Earlier this season Russell had a terrible game against Marquette, only scoring six points and turning the ball over seven times in what was the second game of his college career. The next game out against Holy Cross, Russell poured in a career-high 32 points and grabbed nine rebounds. On Saturday against North Carolina, Russell had his worst shooting game as a Buckeye, only hitting four of the 17 shots he attempted. A little more than 48 hours later Russell came out firing early, hitting three three-pointers in the first half, and another early in the second half. While Russell is going to have some off-nights from the field, it is encouraging that he has the confidence to stick with his shot even when he is struggling because he knows eventually they are going to start falling again.
3. While young, the Ohio State bench has the potential to be an asset going forward.
Against the RedHawks there was a number of players that came off the bench to give Ohio State some solid minutes. It is no secret the energy Jae'Sean Tate brings the Buckeyes off the bench and he is only getting better as he gets more minutes. Tate hit double figures for the third time in the last five games, and for the fourth time overall this season. Along with Tate, Keita Bates-Diop had one of his best performances as a Buckeyes, registering a career-high in points.
The most encouraging sign for the Buckeyes tonight might have been the performance of Kam Williams. After missing all four of his field goals and only scoring two points against the Tar Heels, Williams got back to filling up the scoring column, scoring in double figures for the sixth time in his Buckeye career. A couple second half highlights for Williams saw the redshirt freshman hit a three-pointer in the second half and immediately getting a steal and laying the basketball in for a quick five points. Later in the second half Williams punctuated his night by throwing down a monster dunk. Williams finished with 18 points, which is his second highest scoring total as a Buckeye.