A struggle to win games away from Columbus might have it dropping in the rankings, but the No. 21 Ohio State men’s basketball team continues to enjoy its home cooking.
OSU (10-2) improved to 10-0 at home — all by double-digit margins — with a 93-55 victory over Miami (Ohio) (3-8) on Monday night.
The win followed an 82-74 defeat to then-No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday in Chicago. Redshirt-freshman guard Kam Williams said a key for the Buckeyes that was lacking at the United Center is staying strong for the entirety of the game.
“We didn’t play tough for 40 minutes. That’s been the key for both of our losses,” Williams said. “We’ve just got to stay tough and keep executing the system for 40 straight minutes, because the film shows when we execute our stuff, no one is able to defend us.”
Freshman forward Keita Bates-Diop said he believes that games like Monday night’s are important for developing that mindset.
“That’s what the non-conference games are for, getting better every game,” Bates-Diop said. “We’re starting to improve on things like executing on offense, getting better at defensive principles, I think that’s going to prepare us for the Big Ten.”
Five Buckeyes — Williams, freshman guard D’Angelo Russell, sophomore forward Marc Loving, Bates-Diop and freshman forward Jae’Sean Tate — scored in double figures. Williams led the team with 18 points.
“I just kept my head high,” Williams said. “I knew some opportunities were going to open up. The biggest key for us is getting stops, because when we get stops, I think our transition game is top notch.”
Russell knocked down a three-pointer from near the corner just 12 seconds in, giving the Buckeyes a lead that would they would never relinquish. The freshman from Louisville, Ky., followed that up with another triple from almost the identical spot on OSU’s next possession.
OSU did not lift its foot off the gas pedal for about 10 minutes afterward, erupting out to a lead that stretched as wide as 34-7.
“We’ve got some guys on this team shooting a very high percentage,” OSU coach Thad Matta said. “Trying to set them up and get them looks is very important, in terms of the best shooters shooting more shots.”
Matta cited Loving, who finished with 16 points on four-of-seven shooting, including two-of-three from deep, as one of those shooters.
“He’s taking good (shots),” Matta said. “He could probably take some more. The thing is, Marc is taking good shots, and that’s probably the reason why his percentage is pretty high.”
However, the RedHawks showed their own ability to go on a run, outscoring OSU, 15-2, from that point over the next four and a half minutes to cut OSU’s lead to 36-22. The run was opened by a thunderous alley-oop dunk by junior forward-center LJ Livingston Jr. just before the under-eight minute media timeout.
Matta said OSU’s intensity after timeouts has been something he has monitored all season long.
“What happens out of the timeouts, do we let them go on a run, those are the things that we’re after,” he said.
OSU made that run short-lived, though, and recovered following another timeout to re-open a 46-24 lead at the half.
Nine of the 10 Buckeyes to play in the first half scored, including eight with four points or more. Russell led the way with 10 points on three-of-five shooting, all from 3-point range, followed by Loving with eight points and seven rebounds.
Russell and Loving continued to put on a show to begin the second half. The two exchanged baskets to account for the first 11 points of the half for OSU, as the Buckeyes took a 57-26 lead in the second half’s first few minutes.
OSU’s zone defense held the RedHawks to 34.4 percent from the field, as well as forcing 19 turnovers.
The Buckeyes shot 54.5 percent overall from the field.
“We stayed within the offense in terms of what we were doing,” Matta said. “Those are the things that, as you’re trying to make some adjustments defensively, can they carry that forth? I think, from the standpoint of what we were looking for tonight, we got it.”
Despite the efficient offense, the Buckeyes only shot 12-of-22 from the free throw line.
Fourteen of Williams’ game-high 18 points came in the second half, including four shots in quick succession midway through the stanza, including a stretch where he hit a shot from outside, stole the inbounds pass and converted a lay-up.
Livingston led the way off the bench for the RedHawks, playing in the paint to score a career-high 17 points.
With 6:45 remaining in the first half, OSU redshirt-senior forward Anthony Lee went down on the court with what was later announced as a right ankle sprain. The transfer from Temple was able to get to his feet, but needed assistance to walk off the court. He did not return.
Matta said after the game that Lee is “fine,” but could miss some games after the holiday break. He said that due to Lee going home for the break, he may not be able to get the treatment he needs, which could cause him to miss some time.
The Buckeyes are set for one final non-conference matchup before opening Big Ten play. That next contest is scheduled against Wright State, with tip set for 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Schottenstein Center.