Buckeyes knock off Morehead St. 87-71
COLUMBUS (AP) — In a milestone game, Ohio State coach Thad Matta hardly saw a monumental effort from his team.
Despite a ragged second half, the 12th-ranked Buckeyes did enough to get past pesky Morehead State 87-71 Saturday.
Asked if it felt as if this was his 500th career game as a head coach, Matta cracked, “Yes, it does. Maybe a thousand.”
“We were sloppy. We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be, really at both ends. We did some things that would lead one to believe we weren’t as tuned in as we needed to be,” he said.
Matta is in his 15th season as a head coach, including a year at his alma mater, Butler, and three at Xavier. His record is 385-115, a .770 winning percentage. In his 11 years at Ohio State, the Buckeyes are 283-84 (.771) with five Big Ten regular-season crowns and four tournament championships.
D’Angelo Russell and Sam Thompson each scored 15 points for Ohio State (8-1).
Morehead State (4-8) shot 63 percent in the second half and outscored the Buckeyes while forcing 14 turnovers.
“He’s not too happy about that,” Thompson said of Matta. “First of all, Morehead State is really a good team. But we played a really good first half and we sort of let our guard down in the second half. We didn’t have that same type of energy and intensity and execution on both sides of the floor.”
Luckily for the Buckeyes, they had built a 19-point lead by halftime and had more than enough left over to fight off the Eagles when they cut the lead to 13 twice late in the game.
“Most teams would probably have wilted,” Morehead State coach Sean Woods said. “Our guys showed a lot of character and kept fighting.”
Amir Williams added 12 points and nine rebounds and Jae’Sean Tate also had 12 points for the Buckeyes.
Corban Collins scored a career-high 22 points and Lyonell Gaines added 14 for the Eagles, who have lost four in a row but are finally at full strength.
Ahead just 23-20, the Buckeyes sprinted away to score 24 of the next 32 to the halftime buzzer. Russell didn’t score in the opening 16 minutes but had seven points in the final four minutes, including a post-up turnaround in the final seconds.
When the Eagles cut the lead to 14 with 10 minutes left, Ohio State regrouped to score eight of the next 10 to push the lead back to 70-50. The two loudest roars from a crowd of 14,578 came during that span, on Thompson’s one-handed slam on an inbounds pass from Shannon Scott and Russell’s breakaway dunk off a long pass from Thompson.
Ohio State was without backup post player Anthony Lee, who was attending his grandmother’s funeral.
Woods, a star guard during his playing days at Kentucky, hobbled to and from the bench area after tearing his left Achilles tendon two days earlier while running plays in practice against a mock-up of Ohio State’s zone.
“It kind of worked, us shooting 55 percent from the field,” he said with a grin. “I don’t know if it was worth tearing an Achilles, but I did it.”
Because the Eagles have two games next week, the first chance for surgery won’t be until a couple of days before Christmas.
Morehead State: The Eagles’ last win over a ranked team was a 62-61 NCAA tournament stunner over No. 14 Louisville in 2011 in Denver.
Ohio State: Russell, a 6-foot-5 guard from Lexington, Kentucky, played last year at Montverde Academy in Florida. He came into the game second in the nation among freshmen in scoring at 18 points a game.
Morehead State: The Eagles play at Green Bay on Wednesday.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes play two schools from the Tar Heel state next week, hosting North Carolina A&T on Wednesday, not to be confused with No. 21 North Carolina, which they play at Chicago’s United Center on Saturday as part of the CBS Sports Classic.
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