Connolly, Darby lead Buckeyes rout of Tennessee State

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 30, 2002

COLUMBUS -- Even though Sean Connolly missed his first four 3-point shots, Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien wasn't about to have him quit shooting.

''Connolly is one of those guys I get mad at when he passes up a good shot,'' O'Brien said after the Buckeyes beat Tennessee State 94-73 Saturday.

Connolly tied his career-high with 24 points and Brent Darby added 22 points as Ohio State (6-3) won its third straight.

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Connolly got hot in the second half, making three layups and a 3-pointer in a 21-7 period-opening run that gave the Buckeyes a 63-30 lead.

''Connolly is doing a good job taking the ball to the basket and he is shooting well,'' O'Brien said. ''We need our guys to be aggressive.''

The senior guard shot 8-of-12 from the field including 2-of-6 3-pointers.

''I got a couple of putbacks and the guys did a good screening job for me and got me open a lot,'' Connolly said. ''I was in a flow, got some layups, hit some 3s late. So I really felt good out there.''

Darby had two 3-pointers, a steal and a layup during the key run. He shot 7-of-14 from the field and 3-of-7 on 3-pointers.

''We thought we could put them away early and we did that,'' Darby said. ''Sean did a great job knocking down the shots that we got him. With Connolly scoring it helps me a lot. It makes it easier for me.''

Zach Williams shot 7-of-8 from the field for 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Buckeyes.

Emonte Jernigan hit two of his three 3-pointers in a 16-2 run that gave Ohio State a 22-11 lead with 7:48 remaining in the first half.

The Buckeyes then closed the half on a 10-3 spurt -- with two jumpers each from Williams and Darby -- to go ahead 42-23. Darby scored 11 points in the first half.

Ohio State outrebounded Tennessee State 21-8 in the first half and 48-20 for the game.

Brandon Lockridge made 6-of-9 3-pointers and scored 18 points to lead Tennessee State (2-6), which played without coach Nolan Richardson III.

Richardson was suspended indefinitely for an undisclosed violation of university policy. Assistant coach Hosea Lewis served as acting coach.

''Our intentions were to come out establishing a flow. But we stalled early and never got it going,'' Lewis said.

The NCAA is investigating the Tigers for rules violations under Richardson. The inquiry involves allegations of practice out of season, providing extra benefits to recruits and unethical conduct by a coach.

Richardson, the son of former Arkansas basketball coach Nolan Richardson, is 23-41 since his hiring in April 2000.

Lewis would not comment on Richardson's suspension.

''I am just the lead assistant,'' he said. ''They told me on the way to the game that I would be the coach.''

Ohio State has won three straight despite being hampered by several injuries. Center Terence Dials missed the game because of a sore back, and point guard Brandon Fuss-Cheatham was limited to 9 minutes due to an injured left knee.

''I still see Brandon being not healthy and we don't have Dials yet, but we did get Shun Jenkins back and he got nine rebounds and gave us a chance to give Williams a break,'' O'Brien said.

Ohio State's only losses have been to Alabama, Pittsburgh and Duke, the top three teams in the AP Poll.