Riding the momentum from its 74-67 upset victory over the Kentucky Wildcats, the Ohio State men’s basketball team defeated the Mercer Bears 64-44 on Tuesday night in Columbus.
The Buckeyes were powered by their dominance in the paint, outscoring Mercer 42-24. They moved to 7-5 on the season, with one more nonconference game remaining on the docket before the Big Ten schedule begins.
The victory was not easy for the Buckeyes, as the team struggled in the first half. The Bears held the Buckeyes to 11-of-29 (38 percent) from the field in the first 20 minutes, including an abysmal 0-of-9 from 3-point range. The sloppy first half was marred by 11 turnovers for the Buckeyes, who couldn’t seem to find an answer for Mercer’s 2-3 zone defense.
The second half, however, was a completely different story, as it didn’t take long for the Buckeyes to set the tone. Two big dunks, one a put-back jam from redshirt sophomore center Trevor Thompson and another a coast-to-coast jam by sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate, provided a spark the OSU offense desperately needed.
“Trevor’s tip-dunk to start the second half was a big-time play for us, kinda got us going,” OSU coach Thad Matta said.
Two conventional 3-point plays later, OSU found itself with a 10-point lead that it would not relinquish. The Buckeyes closed the game out strong as the lead grew to 20 points, their highest peak, to end the game.
Freshman guard JaQuan Lyle led the Buckeyes with 18 points and three assists, on a night where the 3-ball simply would not drop. Matta attributed his improved play to a better feel for the offense.
“JaQuan, in the second half, really kinda got rolling, which ignited us,” Matta said. “I think with JaQuan he’s still a work in progress, but his attention to detail has been a lot better. He’s starting to get a sense of what we’re trying to do, what we need to do, and that’s a big thing for us.”
Lyle agreed that having a better feel for the offense and “just playing basketball” are the reasons for leading the Buckeye offense to victory.
“I think last week I let Kentucky’s guards speed me up a little bit, but these past couple days in practice I’ve been getting extra work in, pacing myself throughout,” he said.
Matta said he was happy the outcome of the game turned out in OSU’s favor, noting that the win a few days before Christmas will enable him to have a happier holiday.
“All I know is I’m going to have a better Christmas, than if we lost this game,” Matta said. “For us we’ve had a tough stretch here, and now they get a couple days to relax. Hopefully these guys get to enjoy a little bit of time with their families.”
OSU is set to return from Christmas break to face South Carolina State University at 6 p.m. on Sunday in Columbus.
- A scary play for OSU occurred on a loose ball as junior forward Marc Loving was hit in the face chasing after a loose ball. Loving was OK, and he kept playing after shaking off the inadvertent hit.
- The Buckeyes wore throwbacks jerseys from the early 1990s for the first time this year.
- OSU finished the game shooting 13.6 percent from 3-point range.