The No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes had won their first seven games of the season, but all had been in the friendly confines of their Columbus campus (six at the Schottenstein Center and one at their one, true home St. John Arena). Well, on Wednesday night Chris Holtmann’s team made their second national statement of the season by blowing out Roy Williams’ No. 7 North Carolina Tar Heels 74-49 in the Dean Dome.
The win moved Ohio State to 8-0 for the first time since the 2013-14 season, and it gave the Big Ten a 8-6 victory in the 2019 Big Ten/ACC Challenge. On Stuart Scott Night in Chapel Hill, the game was a bit of a battle of attrition, especially for the team sporting Carolina blue.
Ohio State’s backup big man Ibrahima Diallo didn’t make the trip as he was recuperating from “flu-like symptoms.” North Carolina superstar freshman guard Cole Anthony — the son of former NBA star Greg Anthony — was reportedly dealing with an illness as well, but tested it out pregame and was good enough to go; and his presence was important for UNC, even though he was a little worse for wear following a shot to the head in the first half.
After getting their feet underneath them, Ohio State got hot from the field and built an eight-point lead, but — as the first half progressed — they got pretty sloppy allowing the Carolina to come back, even though the home team was sustaining injuries left and right.
Things were all in favor of the Tar Heels early on as UNC hit their first two attempts to take a 5-0, but Duane Washington Jr. got the Buckeyes on the board three minutes into the game with a triple of his own. Ohio State missed six of their first seven shots before Kaleb Wesson hit a three to give OSU a momentary 6-5 lead.
The Heels contested every attempt from the Buckeyes, especially inside. They had two blocks in the first four minutes, but OSU had six offensive rebounds in the first five to counter the length advantage that the Heels were throwing at OSU.
While Ohio State might have missed their first five shots from inside the three-point arc, they hit four of their first seven attempts from downtown. Washington led the way with nine points in the first seven minutes all from three-pointers.
I mean if you're gonna give him that much time to shoot... pic.twitter.com/a6F45S64I5— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 5, 2019
In the middle of the first half, North Carolina freshman forward Armando Bacot rolled his left ankle and had to be helped to the locker room and looked to be in a tremendous amount of pain. He would not return.
As UNC was forced to go with a smaller lineup, OSU continued a run that coincided with Anthony being out as well. The visitors connected on six-straight attempts from the field (while the Heels were 1-for-8) to run the score to 20-12 at the under-12 media timeout. The Buckeyes’ hot shooting would more or less end there for the first half.
That looked really easy for Luther Muhammad. Ohio State leads 20-12 at the under-12 timeout. pic.twitter.com/qL3RW9w2D2— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 5, 2019
After connecting on an easy transition-layup before the timeout, Luther Muhammad found E.J. Liddell on a screen and roll for an impressive pass-and-dunk combo. Unfortunately on the next defensive possession, Muhammad was whistled for his second foul of the game, and was called back to the bench.
That was a really nasty screen-and-roll from Luther and E.J. pic.twitter.com/TKuMDnkeeb— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 5, 2019
From there, UNC went on a mini-run, connecting on back-to-back trips to cut the OSU lead to 22-19. The Buckeyes went 2:35 without a bucket until Washington hit yet another shot from distance, but Anthony answered with a triple of his own on the subsequent possession to push the Heels to a 10-5 run.
C.J. Walker had been tasked with guarding Anthony with Muhammad on the bench, but even under the weather, Walker just couldn’t keep up with the all-world freshman. With 6:50 left in the first half, UNC’s second-leading scorer Garrison Brooks was called for his second foul and headed to the bench.
Then, on four-straight possessions, OSU turned the ball over which lead to the Heels cutting the lead to 27-25. The last turnover led to Anthony being hit in the forehead by an errant elbow from OSU’s Alonzo Gaffney. The contact busted open the freshman’s forehead and necessitated Anthony being taken out to have the cut tended to. Junior guard Andrew Platek hit one of the ensuing free throws to cut the OSU lead to two. Anthony returned after the under-four media timeout.
After OSU raced out to it’s early, eight-point lead, the team seemed to become a little less disciplined and got out of the offensive flow that let them gain the advantage. Rather than moving the ball freely to find the open man, the Buckeyes settled for contested shots early in the shot clock, attempted ill-advised passes, and couldn’t hit anything from the field. Holtmann’s team didn’t score in the final 4:16 of the first half, and took just a 29-27 lead into the intermission.
In the first half, OSU had 10 turnovers, and six in the final 6:50 before halftime; UNC had only three turnovers at that point. Holtmann’s team would clean up their rash of turnovers in the second half, however.
Neither team shot the ball particularly well in the first half, but OSU only shot the ball seven times in the final 7:40, because they couldn’t hang onto the ball. Ohio State was 11-for-28 (39.3%) while the Heels were 10-for-35 (28.6%). Washington led all scorers with 12, while Anthony was the top Heel with eight.
The Buckeyes got the ball to Kaleb Wesson inside on the first possession of the second half, something that they didn’t do nearly enough in the first 20 minutes. He got the ball down low on the first four Ohio State offensive possessions, and he got shots on two of them. On the third, he was fouled, and connected on one of two of the ensuing free throws.
more of this please..... pic.twitter.com/LK56U2QRwG— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 5, 2019
Though at times they became enamored by the three-pointer, the Buckeyes dominated in the paint, outscoring UNC 30-10; which made their reticence to get the ball to the younger Wesson inside that much more confusing.
However, thanks to a Buckeye defense that was clearly the more physical team and Washington continuing his stellar offensive play, Ohio State built a nine-point lead, 39-30, on the strength of a 10-3 run with 16:49 remaining in regulation. The sophomore guard would end the game with 18 points and five rebounds.
But, just as it looked like the visitors might be prepping to put the game away, Anthony again proved that he was one of the best players in the country by connecting on back-to-back threes to cut the game to a single possession.
Washington's got 17 so far tonight against the Heels pic.twitter.com/N7ZaQmU9f4— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 5, 2019
However, after a timeout, OSU got back to their shot-making ways going on a 6-0 run to reestablish the nine-point lead 45-36. As it has all season, the Buckeye defense continued to give them chances to win games. Not only did they hold the Heels to just a single basket in 6:19 since Anthony’s consecutive threes. The freshman would finish with 15 points.
The defense also led to offensive opportunities, including a fast-break slam for Liddell to get his career high 10 points with 1:48 left in the half. He would only score two in the second half, but till an impressive performance for the freshman. OSU would finish with an 11-5 fast-break scoring edge.
Liddell having his best game as a Buckeye. Career-high 10 points with plenty of time to go. pic.twitter.com/Ab6bbsYZ56— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 5, 2019
With Roy Williams turning to his bench to get a bit of energy on the floor, Kaleb Wesson was called for consecutive (suspect) offensive fouls. They were the first two turnovers for OSU in the half.
UNC’s senior guard Christian Keeling hit a three-pointer to cut the OSU lead to 10-points, but Kaleb Wesson found D.J. Carton in the corner on the next possession for a triple of his own.
really good look for Kaleb to find DJ in the corner for the triple. pic.twitter.com/l0L4470fVj— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 5, 2019
Kaleb Wesson picked up his fourth foul of the game with 5:53 left in regulation and would exit the game with 10 points and nine boards. But it didn’t impact the visitors as it fell in the midst of a 14-0 run as Ohio State extended its lead to 71-48 with 3:02 left to play before Williams brought in the Tar Heel walk-ons for the remainder of the contest.
CJ Walker was the fourth Buckeye to score in double-digits, as he quietly went for 10 points and three rebounds.
OSU shot 46.4 percent (26-56) on the game, but their suffocating defense held the Heels to just 17-of-62 (27.4%) from the floor. The Buckeyes would finish with a decisive 48-32 rebound advantage, all thanks to a 16-board defensive rebounding edge. Despite Williams turning to his reserves for a spark in the second half, Holtmann’s bench outscored their UNC counterparts 25-10.
The No. 6 Buckeyes will be back on the hardwood on Saturday, Dec. 7 to open up Big Ten play against the Penn State Nittany Lions at 12 noon ET.