The worst nightmare for the team that plays zone defense is a team that loves to shoot from beyond the arc.
Lucky for Ohio State, then, visiting Virginia Military Institute could not find the bottom of the cylinder.
Facing a team that entered the contest averaging a nation-high 102.3 points per game, OSU could only watch as the Keydets took shot after shot from the arc. However, VMI shot just 22.4 percent from beyond the arc and the Buckeyes took advantage, pulling away for a 90-57 victory.
For OSU (4-1), it marked the third game in a stretch of five played during a 10-day stretch that includes games against three teams ranked in the top 25. Next up for the Buckeyes: No. 1 North Carolina on their home court this Wednesday.
But in a Sunday night contest played at the team’s former home – St. John Arena – OSU first had to deal with its foe from the Big South. One season ago, the two teams met in the Buckeyes’ first game of the year and OSU emerged with a 107-69 victory, representing the high-water mark for the team’s offense.
“No team that we play will play a zone,” VMI head coach Duggar Baucom said. “ They do such a great job of extending and they’ve got such long athletes and they contest shots very well. They did a great job of overage.”
As a team, the Keydets took 73 shots from the field. Of those 73, 49 came from beyond the arc. Three players – Reggie Williams, Austin Kenon and Christian Hunter – hit three treys each. Williams led his team with 17 points.
This game’s total marks the second-most points scored by the Buckeyes this season, falling short of the 91 scored in the season-opening contest against Wisconsin-Green Bay.
The up-tempo game the Keydets (2-3) utilized kept them in the game for much of the first half, but the Buckeyes closed the first half on a 14-4 run that was punctuated by two treys by senior guard Jamar Butler from the same spot on the court.
VMI cut it to 29-25 with 4:57 remaining, but the aforementioned run gave the Buckeyes a 43-29 lead at the break.
The first trey during the run made Butler the team’s all-time leader in three-pointers. He entered the game tied at 153 with Brent Darby (2000-03) and Scoonie Penn (1999-2000) and finished 4 of 8 from beyond the arc.
When he was lifted from the game with 1:27 left in the half, the crowd responded with a standing ovation.
“It means a lot to go into the record book here at Ohio State,” Butler said. “I didn’t even know how close I was.”
Aside from Butler, the Buckeyes were a combined 0 for 11 from beyond the arc. Matta said he is concerned with the team’s struggles from beyond the arc, but that he feels things will turn around when the team gets a chance to practice more.
“No question about it, we’ve got to shoot the ball better,” he said. “We need other guys making shots. We haven’t got skill instruction in over a week now. That’s what we need right now, one on one with a player and talking, working our feet, working our catches, lifting our shots, those types of things.”
Five Buckeyes finished with double-digit scoring totals. Freshman Kosta Koufos led the way with a game-high 22 points, followed by Butler (12), David Lighty (11), Evan Turner and Matt Terwilliger (10 each).
The team as a whole earned a standing ovation from the announced crowd of 6,670 thanks to a defensive possession late in the half. With a 43-27 lead and less than a minute to play, the Buckeyes forced the Keydets to commit a shot clock violation as Hunter Houston’s desperation three-pointer was partially blocked by Lighty.
Senior forward Othello Hunter played just four minutes during the contest while suffering from an upper respiratory infection. He did not remain on the team bench for the second half. In his absence, true freshman Dallas Lauderdale earned the majority of the minutes and responded with five rebounds, three points and one block in 15 minutes of playing time.
“He’ll be fine,” Matta said. “He just has a bad cold and honestly didn’t feel real good. We said there was no real need to put him back out there.”