Thad Matta said what everyone was thinking upon arriving at his postgame press conference following the No. 18 Ohio State men’s basketball team’s 60-44 win against Delaware State.
“OK everybody, wake up,” Matta cracked.
Those in Value City Arena certainly had reason to fall asleep during the game Saturday. The Hornets (4-5) came to Columbus intent on slowing the pace, taking up the entire shot clock – and sometimes more – in an effort to stifle the Buckeyes’ transition game.
Ohio State ended up taking only 37 shots from the floor – a season-low by 13 – but made 59.5 of its tries. William Buford led the way with 18 points, while David Lighty added 12 and Dallas Lauderdale 11 in a game the Buckeyes led for the final 32 minutes.
“The ultimate goal is getting the W,” Matta said. “But I’m an impatient person. That was difficult for me, and we were pressing, trapping, trying to do anything we could do to try to speed the tempo up.”
In an effort to placate the 12,159 in attendance, Matta kept his regulars in for the entire game. Only seven players saw the court with Lighty, Buford and Jon Diebler playing the full 40 minutes, and Matta apologized to the fans for the boredom afterward.
“I think the only chance we probably had to beat this team was probably not to show up,” said Delaware State coach Greg Jackson, whose team committed five shot clock violations. “We were outmanned, out-talented across the board. To even be in the ballgame is a tribute to this team. The only plan we had was to come in here to limit their possessions and keep them out of transition, and I thought for the most part our kids did that.”
In a credit to the Buckeye players, Ohio State stayed with it on the offensive end, draining 12 of its 16 second-half shots. Buford had a team-high 11 points in the second half with Lighty adding eight as the Buckeyes (9-2) tried to create energy by pressing the Hornets.
“We like to get up and down,” Lighty said. “We tried to speed them up a little bit, pressing and things like that, but it’s a little different. You just have to adjust to it.”
Delaware State cut a 25-17 halftime deficit to six points with a basket to start the second half, but Ohio State quickly made its lead 11 when Diebler nailed a three and then stole the ball, allowing Lighty to make a layup in transition.
The lead stayed between nine and 12 points until 5:20 remained in the game before ballooning up to 17 before the end.
In addition to his game-high scoring honors, Buford added six assists to give him 24 in the four games since the injury to Evan Turner.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the new William Buford,” said Buford, who added two blocks. “When they’re open, I just throw them the ball.”
Lighty had four rebounds and made 2 of 3 three-pointers while Lauderdale was 5 of 6 from the floor, yet his Big Ten-leading shooting percentage fell to 89.4 percent. Diebler added eight points and had a career-high seven rebounds.
Intensity was hard to come by from everyone in Value City Arena during the opening moments as the Hornets’ stall tactics drained the life out of the game. The Buckeyes led only 18-13 at the under-four media timeout in the opening half before some life was breathed into the crowd by two alley-oop passes by Jeremie Simmons.
His first coming out of the timeout resulted in a thunderous jam by Buford and pushed the senior’s career assist total to 100, and the latter gave Lauderdale a slam with only four seconds left to send off the half on one of its few high notes.
Simmons, Buford and Lauderdale all had seven points at the break with Buford adding three helpers.
By the end, the teams had combined for 75 shots from the floor, an average of less than two per minute. The hope for Ohio State was that the Buckeyes’ ability to be efficient offensively will help them when the pace slows down in Big Ten play and the team faces teams like Wisconsin and Northwestern.
“From that standpoint I think that is definitely something that we can draw on,” Matta said. “We’ve had some teams come in here and really try to slow things down, and I think that is definitely a positive that can come out of it.”
Delaware State did make 18 of 38 field goals thanks to a few defensive mistakes by the Buckeyes, though the Hornets also committed 15 turnovers. Forward Frisco Sandridge led the Hornets with 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
Notes: Ohio State moved to 3-0 all-time vs. the Hornets with wins the past two seasons. … The Buckeyes are 8-0 at home on the season and have won 70 of the last 71 against unranked opponents in Columbus. … Simmons had seven points and three steals for the Buckeyes. … Diebler was 2 for 4 from beyond the arc, pushing his streak of games with at least one made trey to 20. … DSU’s loss was its fourth in a row.