Buckeyes struggle but pull away to beat Mercer, 66-44
COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio State had one of those nights.
“We couldn’t even throw a rock in the ocean,” Ohio State guard JaQuan Lyle said.
The Buckeyes missed their first 16 3-point attempts Tuesday and finished 3 for 22 (14 percent) but upped their defensive effort in the second half, when Lyle scored 12 of his 18 points, and pulled away for a 64-44 win against Mercer.
“If anybody ever says defense doesn’t win games they don’t know what they’re talking about,” OSU coach Thad Matta said.
Ohio State (7-5) was 26 for 60 from the floor (43. 3 percent) but compensated with 17 steals and a 17-4 advantage in fast break points against Mercer (9-3).
The Buckeyes, winners of three straight, also got 13 points from Jae’Sean Tate and 12 by Keita Bates-Diop.
Desmond Ringer had 18 points for Mercer, who made 17 of 49 field goals (34.7 percent).
“We just got smashed every sense of the imagination tonight,” Mercer coach Bob Hoffman said. “They’re length got us. I don’t know the last time we had 25 turnovers in a game. We got sped up a lot.”
Ohio State started the first five minutes of the second half on a 13-4 run to move ahead 38-28.
Trevor Thompson opened the scoring with a thunderous rebound slam.
“That was a big-time play for us,” Matta said. “That kind of got us going.”
Lyle and Bates-Diop added 3-point plays during the stretch as the Buckeyes clamped down on Mercer.
Ohio State led 25-24 at the half but was 11 for 29 (37.9 percent) from the floor and committed 12 turnovers, one more than the entire game against the Wildcats.
The Buckeyes had just four in the second half.
Mercer led 20-13 in the first half before Lyle scored six and lobbed to Bates-Diop for a dunk to cap the first-half scoring with 2:15 left.
“We were right there,” Hoffman said. “We were doing what we wanted to do. We were executing. We were getting shots.”
Then the Ohio State defense took over.
ON THE COURT
Ohio State freshman forward Mickey Mitchell made his debut with 1:57 left in the first half. He had not been allowed to play, but could practice, while the NCAA determined his eligibility. He was given approval on Friday.
He had three rebounds in eight minutes and missed his only shot.
“It felt good just playing again and being out there with my teammates,” he said.
Mercer: Hoffman on the Bears’ best start since 1984-85. “My guys have been amazing. An amazing first semester, 9-3. A lot of road games, neutral site games and we got it taken to us tonight with a really good team I thought we had a chance against. We did for awhile.”
Ohio State: The only previous meeting with Mercer was exactly 11 years ago when the Buckeyes won 102-77 in Value City Arena. Ohio State is 14-1 vs. the Southern Conference.
Mercer: The Bears play their final nonconference game Dec. 30 at Kennesaw State.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes host South Carolina State on Sunday before opening the Big Ten season