One hundred wins. Nineteen losses.
That is the record of senior guards Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. as members of the Ohio State men’s basketball team. The seniors clinched their 100th career victory Friday night with a 99-64 win against North Florida (4-4, 0-0).
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder, today is their 100th win at Ohio State,” coach Thad Matta said after the game. “They’re the second fastest in college basketball to get there, Kansas got there in 116 and they got there in 119 … it’s amazing and I’ve never been prouder of two guys.”
No. 7 OSU (6-0, 0-0) used a balanced scoring attack and a hot shooting night to secure their sixth victory of the season.
The Buckeye starting five hit their first 13 shots, with team shooting 19-27 overall in the first half, and scored 19 straight points after falling behind 6-5 to build a comfortable lead.
“We just really wanted to come out and make the most of this opportunity. We wanted to find a way to put 40 minutes together, something that we hadn’t really done this year … we just came in and wanted to get out to a fast start,” Craft said.
After struggling over his last three games, only managing two made baskets in 20 attempts, junior forward LaQuinton Ross turned things around against North Florida.
Ross hit his first four shots of the game and finished the day with 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting, including a career-high four 3-pointers.
Craft said that Ross’ improvement was partially because of his effort in the practices leading up to the game.
“LaQuinton’s a competitor, he’s the first one to tell himself he hasn’t been playing great and we didn’t have to really get on him. He took that on himself to come out in practice and do whatever he needed to do, just really try to find that role and he did that,” Craft said after the game. “He came into practice and had a couple great ones, and usually when we have guys practice well it carries over really well to the game and we saw that today.”
OSU led 48-29 at halftime, and used a 14-2 run at the start of the second half to put the game away for good.
North Florida struggled against the Buckeye defense, shooting 20 of 52 for 38.5 percent and turning the ball over 18 times.
Junior center Amir Williams led the Buckeyes with a career-high 18 points while Craft and Smith Jr. added 16 and 10 respectively.
Matta said having Williams produce at a high level regularly has been a plus for the Buckeyes this season.
“He was lacking a little energy on the defensive end to start the game and I thought he really elevated after that and guys did a nice job of finding him, getting him the ball … we’ve got to put him in position to be successful and I think we did that where we got him the ball tonight,” Matta said.
Sophomore guard Amedeo Della Valle provided a spark off the bench, scoring a career-high 17 points and going 5-8 from 3-point land.
No Buckeye starter had less than nine points on the night.
As a team the Buckeyes shot 69.2 percent from the field and 60.9 percent from beyond the arc. Nine different Buckeyes scored and five were in double figures.
Smith Jr. said a big part of the high scoring numbers was the team feeding off each other as the game went on.
“I think when guys see other guys make shots it boosts everyone’s confidence,” Smith Jr. said. “It makes everybody think ‘why can’t I be the guy to make the next shot,’ and that stuff catches on fire and guys start swinging the ball and getting wide open shots and coach has been on us to make your open shots.”
Next up the Buckeyes are scheduled to take on Maryland (5-2, 0-0) at the Schottenstein Center as part of the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge Wednesday at 7 p.m.