With its leading-scorer and rebounder saddled to the bench with an injury, the No. 2-ranked Ohio State men’s basketball team (8-0) relied on its defense and a deeper-than-usual bench to breeze past Texas Pan-American (2-7), 64-35, at the Schottenstein Center Saturday.
OSU sophomore forward Jared Sullinger missed the game with an aggravated disk in his back, but the Buckeyes still managed to hold the Broncs to 32.5 percent shooting and didn’t allow UTPA to make its first field goal until the 10:54 mark of the first half.
Much like Tuesday’s game against Duke, OSU reaped the benefits of a hot start, as it began the game on an 11-2 run. OSU sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas contributed to the Buckeyes’ quick start with seven of the Buckeyes’ first 11 points and finished tied as OSU’s leading-scorer with 11 points.
Thomas shared that honor with Sullinger’s replacement, junior forward Evan Ravenel, who in addition to scoring a season-high 11 points was the Buckeyes’ leading rebounder with seven boards in 20 minutes of play.
“I see it as an unfortunate opportunity for me,” Ravenel said. “It’s definitely an opportunity for me to get out there with the extra minutes provided for my team and do what we need towin.”
With Sullinger out of the line-up, OSU coach Thad Matta dug deeper into his bench, playing 10 players before halftime. Freshman center Amir Williams came entered the game at the 16:26 mark of the first half — the earliest he’s played in a game all season — and teammates J.D. Weatherspoon, Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson all saw playing time earlier than they typically have throughout this season.
Williams played a season-high 15 minutes for OSU, finishing the game with five points, three rebounds and one block.
“He came along well,” Ravenel said. “Amir’s a heck of a shot blocker and shotchanger…offensively, he’s getting better everyday.”
After holding the Broncs to 25 percent shooting and just four field goals — three of which were 3-point shots- the Buckeyes took a 31-14 lead into intermission after a buzzer-beating floater from sophomore guard Aaron Craft.
“I kidded to our guys at halftime, I said ‘hey, at least we’re a little bit better than Duke, ‘cause they were down 19 at the half, we’re only down 17,'” UTPA coach Ryan Marks said. “They were very, very workman like. They did what needed to get done.”
OSU started the second half nearly as strongly as they began the first half, as they used an 18-7 run to start the half to gain more separation from the clearly outmatched Broncs. The hot second half start gave Matta the opportunity to rest his starters, with no Buckeye starter playing past the 10-minute mark of the second half as OSU reserves contributed 31 points to the Buckeyes’ cause.
UTPA’s Jared Maree finished as the game’s leading scorer with 13 points. The win was the300th of Matta’s career, who spent time as the head coach at Butler and Xavier before taking over the OSU program in 2004.
“I’m probably more worried about 301,” Matta said. “I’ve been blessed to have a great players, I’ve had great coaches that have been with me, and I think that I’ve been at three great universities that have awarded me the opportunities to win basketball games.”
After having a week off for games due to OSU exams, the Buckeyes will play their first road game of the season next Saturday when they’ll travel to Lawrence, Kan. to take on No. 15 Kansas.
Following the game, Matta said that Sullinger’s absence was a precautionary measure and that there’s a decent chance that he’ll be back for next Saturday’s showdown.
“Things just have to calm down. We’ll take a look at him Monday or Tuesday,” Matta said. “He’s feeling better every day. The muscle’s relaxing more every day. That’s a great sign forus.”