In its first game as the No. 3-ranked team in the country, Ohio State made sure it didn’t undergo the same spell that’s befallen numerous top-five teams in the first six weeks of the season. The Buckeyes built a double-digit lead in the opening minutes and it never fell below 20 in the second half, vanquishing Bryant 86-48 at Value City Arena in the Gotham Classic.
“One of the main points we talked about after the Central Connecticut game was to make sure we continue to sustain energy throughout the duration of the entire game,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. “We did a great job keeping the momentum up the entire night.”
It was as if they hit the repeat button, using above average shooting and stout defense for the fourth straight game. The Buckeyes shot 52.5 percent from the field – 40 percent from beyond the arc – and scored 22 points off 19 Bulldog turnovers. The majority of Ohio State’s takeaways came on steals – 13 to be exact, five of which were credited to Shannon Scott.
On the offensive end, it was Lenzelle Smith Jr.’s night to play a leading role. He finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists. He delivered a one-handed fast-break dunk in the second half that’s sure to make the rounds on SportsCenter.
“I think Lenzelle is playing at a very high level,” Matta said. “He is a complete basketball player. His defense goes unnoticed except by me. His assist-to-turnover rate is a lot better and he is having a great senior season.”
Center Amir Williams continued building on his strong early season, recording 12 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots. Williams contributed to the Buckeyes’ 44-18 advantage in the paint. A total of 10 Ohio State players scored, including walk-on Jake Lorbach who finished with a career-high six points.
“Coach Matta told me to come out and be aggressive early on, so that’s what I tried to do,” Williams said. “I came out aggressive and with a lot of energy. I tried to help the team get going and we just took off from there."
The Buckeyes ended the first half on an 8-0 run and began the second half by scoring the first five points to give themselves a 25-point cushion. After an up-and-down beginning to the season offensively – mostly down – Ohio State is on a four-game high, scoring 84 points per game while shooting 57 percent from the field and 44 percent from three-point range. It’s the best such stretch for the Buckeyes since the 2008-09 season.
Bryant was limited to 27.6 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent from 3. Dyami Starks entered the game as the nation’s eighth-leading scorer at 22 points per game and was held to 16 on 5-of-15 shooting.
“We are a good team and will contend in our league for a championship,” Bryant head coach Tim O’Shea said. “[Ohio State] will contend for a national championship. Athletically, they’re an extraordinary bunch. Very few teams have scored more than 60 points on them and they’re very fast. They play national-championship caliber defense. They've got the length, they’ve got the shot blocking, they’ve got the quickness.”