After a sluggish victory Tuesday night against Morehead State, Ohio State seniors David Lighty and Jon Diebler said they would eat Thanksgiving dinner in the practice gym. In a rare contest against an in-state foe the day after the holiday, they looked as if they had eaten too much turkey the day before.
Their opponent had plenty to do with that. The No. 3 Buckeyes (5-0) overcame a deliberate RedHawk attack to earn a 66-45 victory at Value City Arena.
“Today was a unique game because of the limited possessions,” OSU head coach Thad Matta said. “Miami was going to try to bring the shot clock into play. I thought our guys defensively did a very good job of keeping their composure … offensively we just didn’t have a lot of possessions. Sixty-six points on 67 possessions? Overall not that bad of a job.”
The RedHawks (2-4) entered the game ranked 267th in the country in field goal percentage (.405) and 324th in the nation in points scored per game (57.0). In an effort to slow down the Buckeyes, who ranked 8th and 22nd, respectively, they took to holding the ball in an effort to shorten the game.
Of Miami’s first nine possessions, the RedHawks did not shoot until less than 10 seconds remained on six of them. It succeeded in keeping OSU’s score down but did not help the visitors score: 15 minutes into the game, the Buckeyes were 10 of 18 (55.6 percent) and the RedHawks were 2 of 18 (11.1 percent).
After averaging 62.8 shot attempts per game, OSU was held to a season-low 48. However, the RedHawks finished 15 of 51 (29.4 percent) from the field.
Lighty again bemoaned his team’s start.
“They’re a team that likes to slow the tempo down,” he said. “I don’t think our offense was on as high cylinders as we usually are.”
Added junior guard William Buford: “It just wasn’t clicking. I think we were getting good looks and good shots but the shots weren’t falling. Dave stepped up and got the rest of us going.”
Lighty led the way with 21 points thanks to a 4 for 4 performance from three-point range. He teamed with freshman Jared Sullinger to put the game out of reach in the second half.
After Miami began the final 20 minutes with a 7-0 run that had the crowd of 15,935 growing restless, OSU got a layup from Buford to push the lead back to seven points. It was the start of a 22-6 run by the Buckeyes, the final 20 points of which were scored by Sullinger and Lighty.
It started by feeding the ball inside to the freshman, who had the first four points after Buford’s basket. Lighty added a three-point play, which was followed by a lay-up from Sullinger that made it 41-25 Buckeyes with 12:04 remaining.
Lighty would add a free throw and two three-pointers that were sandwiched around a pair of free throws from Sullinger to set the score at 50-29 with 7:59 remaining.
Miami would get no closer than 17 points the rest of the way. Sullinger said Matta delivered him a message during the first timeout of the half, which came after Buford’s basket that gave OSU the seven-point lead.
“Coach Matta told me to want the ball, and in the second half I did,” said Sullinger, who had four of his 12 points in the first half. Likewise, Lighty scored 19 of his 21 points in the second stanza of what was his 100th career victory.
“It’s an accomplishment,” he said of the milestone. “I’ve been here for a while so you’re going to get a lot of wins I guess. You’ve got to keep going.”
OSU was boosted by Buford's return to action. After missing the game against the Eagles, he earned the start. and finished with seven points and four rebounds while going 3 for 8 from the field in 30 minutes of action.
“(The back) didn’t bother me,” he said. “I got a little winded but I was fine. It was real hard (to watch). I think that was my first time not playing since I’ve been here so that was real hard.”
Miami became the second team this season to barely avoid setting a Value City Arena record for fewest first-half points. The 16 points scored in the first half were one off the low of 15 set by Northwestern on March 8, 2009. Six days earlier, visiting UNC Wilmington was also held to 16 points in what would be an 81-41 OSU victory.
The RedHawks got on the scoreboard first on the eighth possession of the game when sophomore guard Allen Roberts converted a pair of free throws at the 16:16 mark. OSU would answer with the first field goal of the contest thanks to Buford’s athleticism
After catching an alley-oop attempt from senior David Lighty but failing to convert, he came down with the ball underneath the basket and quickly found senior center Dallas Lauderdale. He promptly dunked the ball with 16:03 left in the half and the crowd roared.
It would be the start of a Buckeye run that was keyed by their defense. The Buckeyes scored the next nine points to take a seven-point lead when Miami’s Julian Mavunga hit a trey to temporarily stop the bleeding at the 12:09 mark.
The visitors would not score again until 6:46 remained in the first half as OSU then put together a 13-0 run during which all of its points were scored by three freshmen. Reserve forward Deshaun Thomas had eight, reserve Aaron Craft had three and starting post player Jared Sullinger had two.
Mavunga’s basket made it 22-8 but the RedHawks would put together their most sustained run of the first half by outscoring the Buckeyes by an 8-6 mark the rest of the way. A three-pointer by reserve Orlando Williams with 28 seconds remaining kept the visitors from setting a mark for futility and set the score.
The game marked Miami’s third contest against a ranked opponent in 10 days and followed double-digit losses to No. 1 Duke (Nov. 16) and No. 18 San Diego State (Nov. 22). OSU’s lone game against a ranked foe was a nationally televised 93-75 road win against No. 9 Florida.
As the final seconds ticked off, the OSU student section began singing “We Don’t Give A Damn For The Whole State Of Michigan” in anticipation of Saturday’s home football contest with the Wolverines.
Williams led his team with 13 points. Nick Winbush, the team’s leading scorer entering the contest at 11.4 per game, went 1 for 9 from the field and finished with three points.
Asked when he thought the game got away from his squad, Miami head coach Charlie Coles said, “About 2:30 (p.m.) when we drove up. I wrote two things on the board today: take care of the ball and compete. That’s all I wrote. No strategy. ”