The offense had to cool off at some point for Ohio State. After five consecutive games of shooting above 50 percent, the Buckeyes’ found the rims unkind as the temperatures dipped into the teens outside Value City Arena.
The unheralded Delaware Blue Hens led midway though the first half as Ohio State misfired on six of its first seven field goal attempts. It wasn’t until the Buckeyes used a 15-0 run to take command early in the second half that they put separation on the scoreboard.
Ohio State relied on its patented stingy defense – ranked third nationally – to stifle Delaware. The Blue Hens entered the game averaging 83 points per game and left well under that benchmark in a 76-64 defeat. They shot 43 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and only 46.7 percent from the free throw line.
The Buckeyes had five players in double figures with LaQuinton Ross leading the charge with 19 points. He connected on 8 of 13 shots from the field, including both 3s. Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 14, Aaron Craft 12, Amir Williams 11 and Amedeo Della Valle 10. Williams added 12 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. Ohio State shot 42.3 percent from the field.
“Sometimes you have some games where things aren’t clicking the way you want them to. However, the difference between good teams and great teams is great teams figure it out and win,” head coach Thad Matta said.
The first half represented one of the poorest offensive stretches of the season for the Buckeyes. Ohio State scored the final 12 points of the half to build a 37-26 lead at the break. Ross scored eight points during the spurt. The Buckeyes were aided by a technical on the Delaware bench, which seemed to add to Ohio State’s momentum and zap the energy out of the Blue Hens. Craft made both free throws.
Neither team played particular well in the first half. The Buckeyes shot just 39 percent from the field, but it looked much prettier than Delaware’s 33 percent performance that included eight turnovers.
“We did some things today that are uncharacteristic of us as a team, like being 7-for-15 at the free throw line,” Delaware head coach Monte Ross said. “Overall, it was a terrific environment for college basketball today. These guys [Ohio State] are obviously used to playing in an atmosphere like this, but our guys didn’t shrink from the moment or the atmosphere."
Ohio State led by as many as 16 points in the second half and never by fewer than eight. All 11 wins this season for the third-ranked Buckeyes have come by double digits. The next test comes Saturday against Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden.