Buckeyes Remain Unbeaten, Top CCSU

LaQuinton Ross

The Ohio State men's basketball team avoided a big letdown after its win over Maryland in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge with a 74-56 victory over Central Connecticut State Saturday afternoon at Value City Arena.

The Ohio State men's basketball team remained unbeaten and despite struggling in spurts, the Buckeyes battered the Blue Devils of Central Connecticut State 74-56 at Value City Arena.

The Buckeyes took command after a first half that saw CCSU keep things close. Ohio State took advantage of good shooting – and 20 Blue Devil turnovers – to pull away after halftime.

The 13,640 in attendance watched LaQuinton Ross continue his rebound from early-season struggles. The junior led all scorers with a career-high 23 points, making nine of 13 shots from the field. He was one of three Buckeyes in double figures. Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 17 points, while Amir Williams contributed 11. Ohio State had a solid afternoon from the field, shooting 52.7 percent (29 of 55) and turned CCSU's turnovers into 26 points. Conversely, the Buckeyes committed 11 turnovers, which turned into 12 Blue Devil points.

Central Connecticut State, a nearly 30-point underdog, kept the game close thanks to a solid effort from the field. The Blue Devils made 46.0 percent (23 of 50) of their shots, several times – especially in the first half – finding open lanes to the hoop. Faronte Drakeford led the visitors with 12 points, while Matt Mobley added 10.

The game started well enough for the Buckeyes, who built a 14-point lead by the 13:16 mark. Ohio State found plenty of success in the paint in taking a 20-4 lead. Williams scored six early points, two baskets on layups and another on a dunk, and the early spurt was capped by an Aaron Craft jumper that caused CCSU head coach Howie Dickenman to call a 30-second timeout.

After that, however, the Blue Devils slowly clipped away at the deficit - primarily against Ohio State's reserves. They cut OSU's lead to as little as five when Khalen Cumberlander made a layup with 4:29 remaining that made it 28-23.

"We got off to a hot start," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "Then I pulled some guys and probably sat them for longer than I should have because when they checked back in they did not have the same level of intensity."

Ohio State responded, however, with an 8-0 run that increased the lead to 36-23 with 2:55 left before the break. Ross scored four points during the run, making a pair of free throws and a layup.

Central Connecticut State took the momentum into halftime, however, by scoring six of the last eight first-half points. Kyle Vinales capped that spurt with a running layup in the final seconds after shaking Craft on the final possession of the game.

CCSU's penetration hurt the Buckeyes in the first half. The Blue Devils found lanes open to the hoop and made 52 percent (13 of 25) of their shots. Ohio State was not bad in the shooting department, making 48.3 percent (14 of 29), but the Buckeyes made only two of their 10 attempts from beyond the three-point line.

Matta was displeased at halftime.

"It was a little bit of sarcasm and anger at the same time," Ross said of Matta's demeanor. "He tried to keep cool because he feels like we are a veteran basketball team. The mistakes we made we shouldn't have made."

The Blue Devils got within eight twice after halftime before the Buckeyes took control. A 10-0 run built the lead to 18 (59-41) with 9:57 remaining. A Smith Jr. dunk off an offensive rebound sparked the run, while Sam Thompson, Craft and a pair of Ross buckets ended the spurt.

CCSU (2-6) could only get within 13 points the rest of the way, allowing the Buckeyes to improve to 8-0 on the season.

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