Career and season-high performances punctuated by a host of soaring dunks were Ohio State’s calling card March 22 as the second-seeded Buckeyes opened their 2013 NCAA Tournament with a 95-70 rout of outmanned No. 15 Iona at the University of Dayton Arena.
Junior swingman Deshaun Thomas tallied a game-high 24 points for Ohio State while sophomore forward Sam Thompson established new single-game career-highs with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Meanwhile, sophomore guard Shannon Scott totaled seven points and seven rebounds and matched a career best with a game-high 10 assists.
Junior point guard Aaron Craft was held to only four points, but he passed out seven assists and totaled six steals.
Two other Buckeyes reached double-figure scoring – junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. with 12 and senior center Evan Ravanel, who had 11.
The 95 points was a season-high for the Buckeyes, who entered the game averaging only 64.7 per game. OSU scored a 91-45 victory over Kansas City on Nov. 23, and hadn’t topped the 90-point mark since a 90-72 win over UNC Asheville on Dec. 15.
It was Ohio State’s best scoring output since a 107-74 win against VMI on Nov. 23, 2011, and the team’s highest point total in an NCAA Tournament game since a 98-66 decision over George Mason in the third round of the 2011 tourney.
Only a chilly streak at the end of the game prevented the Buckeyes from a 50-percent shooting performance. They wound up at 47.9 percent (34 for 71), including 7 for 15 (46.7 percent) from three-point range.
Meanwhile, Iona went through some ice-cold streaks in the game and finished 23 for 65 (35.4 percent) from the field. That included a 6-for-28 performance from behind the arc, just 21.4 percent.
Sophomore guard Tavon Sledge led a trio of Gaels in double figures with 20 points. Junior backcourt mate Sean Armand added 17 and sophomore forward David Laury had 14, but senior guard Lamont “Momo” Jones never quite found the range in the game. Jones, his team’s leading scorer this season with an average of 23.0 point per game, finished with only nine on 3-for-14 shooting. That included a 1-for-8 performance from three-point territory.
Ohio State set a blistering pace to open the game, erasing an early 6-5 deficit with a 22-2 run over the next eight-plus minutes. During the spurt, the Buckeyes made 10 of 14 attempts from the floor while Iona missed 16 of 17 shots from the floor and committed four turnovers.
The run was punctuated by some high-flying acrobatics by OSU including a dunk by Ravenel after his own steal of an Iona inbounds pass and an alley-oop slam from Thompson off a pass from Scott.
Six different Buckeyes scored during the onslaught, led by Thomas whose three ended the run to give his team a 27-8 lead with 8:31 remaining in the first half.
The Gaels did not give, however. They slowed chipped away at the 19-point deficit, outscoring the Buckeyes by a 12-3 margin over the next three minutes to pull with 10 points at 30-20 with 5:39 left to play.
OSU seemed to stem that tide and still enjoyed an 11-point cushion at 35-24 at the 4:02 mark, but then Iona went on an 8-2 run to make things interesting at 37-33 with 1:36 to go before the break.
But the Buckeyes again shifted gears, finishing the first half on a 6-0 flurry that included another Thompson dunk, this one a one-handed tomahawk jam. Thompson bagged a pair of free throws at the 0:02.2 mark to push Ohio State’s lead back to double digits at 43-33 at the break.
OSU benefited from hot shooting in the first half, making 16 of 32 shots (50.0 percent). That was in sharp contrast to the Gaels, who made only 12 of 33 attempts (36.4 percent). That included a chilly 25.0 percent (3 for 12) from three-point range.
The shooting percentages carried over to the early part of the second half as Iona missed its first two attempts while Ohio State made three of its first four, including a three-pointer from Thomas and another flying flush from Thompson to extend the Buckeyes’ lead to 52-33 at the 18:00 mark.
That advantage eventually reached 22 points when Thompson rifled home yet another dunk, this one the two-handed variety after a perfect lob from junior point guard Aaron Craft, to give the Buckeyes a 64-42 lead with 14:34 remaining.
Once again, the Gaels tried to get back into the game with a 6-0 mini-run to make it 64-48 at the 12:54 mark, but this time Ohio State kept Iona at arm’s length the rest of the way. The Gaels never got closer while Buckeyes’ lead reached as many as 30 after freshman Amadeo Della Valle bagged a pair of free throws with 4:32 left made it 88-58.