It wasn't sexy but Ohio State used a stifling defense and timely scoring to turn back Florida State 58-44 tonight in Tallahassee.
Jared Sullinger put up another double-double with 11 points and 13 boards, Jon Diebler chipped in 12 and David Lighty added 10 points and seven rebounds as the Buckeyes improved to 6-0 on the season.
Featuring two teams with stiff defenses buoyed by long defenders, both offenses struggled to connect from the field with FSU shooting 35% compared to just 32% for Ohio State. Thad Matta's crew was still the more dominant team winning the glass 39-29 including 25-12 in the decisive 1st half while forcing 22 Seminole miscues.
The Buckeyes got off to quick 7-0 start with William Buford dropping a triple before Lighty and Dallas Lauderdale added layups despite FSU clogging the lane with a 2-3 zone.
FSU's all-everything big man Chris Singleton didn't record his first bucket until 3:30 left in the half, a putback that cut the OSU lead to 20-15 but the Buckeyes responded with a game changing 15-4 run that stretched into the opening minutes of the 2nd half pushing the lead to 35-19. Diebler sparked the run with a pair of triples while Sullinger added five points and Lauderdale hit two clutch free throws nearing the end of the half after Deshaun Thomas was injured and unable to take his charity tosses. Thomas grabbed an offensive board of a Diebler triple try and attempted a slashing putback but an FSU defender cut him a bit causing an awkward fall onto his back. After catching his breath, he walked to the sidelines under his own power but did not return.
Leading 35-19 at the 18:29 mark, the Buckeyes went ice cold hitting just three of their next 20 shots with five turnovers (Buford 4) allowing the Seminoles to cut the lead to 47-39 with 6:52 to play. Buford would foul out during the run, committing his 4th and 5th fouls 20 seconds apart, before Thad could get him out of the game.
The offensively challenged Seminoles couldn't take advantage as they had two cracks at cutting into the lead after a confused possession saw Craft heave a 25 footer just before the shot clock expired before Lighty missed a layup off a steal though goaltending should've been called as Singleton slapped the glass. On the ensuing FSU possesion, a heady play from Lighty in which went to the floor, grabbed a loose ball in the lane and called timeout set up a bucket from Sullinger off a baseline spin move extending the lead to 49-39 with 5:04 to play. It was a great move by Sullinger, who had significant trouble getting shots off against Florida State's tenacious baseline defenders.
Deividas Dulkys answered with a three cutting the lead to 49-42 but the Buckeyes delivered the knockout punch closing the game with a 9-2 run with Sullinger and Lauderdale adding free throws before Diebler converted a nifty steal and driving layup to put OSU in front 53-42 with 2:51 left. A wild sequence in which the Seminoles missed four shots in one trip was capped with Sullinger swatting Ian Miller leading to a slashing layup from Lighty giving the Buckeyes a 55-42 lead with 1:46 left to put the game on ice.
All in all, a sloppy but still fairly impressive win on the road against a team with a legit defense. Singleton was all over the floor recording seven boards, five steals and three blocks but Lighty frustrated him offensively, holding the USA Select invitee to eight points on 2/9 shooting with three turnovers.
Facing zone for much of the 1st half, the Buckeyes shot 37% with Diebler hitting just 1/7 from downtown. The 'Noles played more man in the 2nd half and held the Buckeyes to 28%. OSU hit just 4/20 from deep on the night. The big three of Lighty, Diebler and Buford shot a combined 11/38 and Buford was held to just 19 minutes due to foul trouble.
With Thomas injured and Buford saddled with foul trouble, Aaron Craft played a season high 33 minutes but strugged with the FSU pressure committing four turnovers against one assist. He also hit just 1/5 from the floor.
The Buckeyes now have an extended layoff with their next contest scheduled for December 9th against IUPUI, a 7:00pm tip.