The Buckeyes jumped out to a 18-7 lead to start the game and built that to a 12 point halftime lead, but WVU's length clamped down on OSU's scorers in the second and the Mounty's were able to hit some big 3-pointers to outscore the Bucks 45-23 and go on to win 71-65 in Morgantown.
Ohio State opened the game in a 1-3-1 halfcourt trap off made buckets, which really confused and slowed down Huggin's boys. But the veteran coach made the proper adjustments as the game wore on to give his team the best chance to score. On the other hand, Thad may have stayed in the zone a bit too long and could've gone to man a few minutes earlier than he did.
Evan Turner and the boys were scorching the nets in the first half, connecting on 16 of 29 (55.2%) overall and 5 of 9 (55.6%) from deep. Their lead swelled to as many as 14 at 29-15, after Buford and Diebler combined for 15 points in a 3 minute stretch. Diebler hit 3 of his first 4 bombs, but picked up his second foul with 8:29 and sat the rest of the half.
The Bucks took care of the rock against a physical WVU defense, committing just 2 TO's in the first 15 minutes of play, before they committed them on consecutive possessions, which prompted a 4 minutes scoring drought. In that time the Mountaineers trimmed the lead to 7, but the Bucks held on and entered the locker room with a 40-28 lead.
Buford and Turner were fantastic in the first half, combining to make 10 of 18 shots. Turner hit 6 of 12 for 13 points, while also grabbing 6 boards and dishing out 3 dimes. Buford at one point scored 7 straight and hit 4 of 6 shots for 11 points. The Buckeyes held WVU to 38.5% shooting in the first, but 6 of their 10 made FG's were 3balls and the Mounty's held a slight edge on the glass, 14-13.
Perhaps it was that new batch of Moonshine-Ade at half or the experience of Bob Huggins shining through, but the second half was a completely different story. WVU opened with a 10-0 run over the first 3 minutes and it was clear their defense, offensive game and the crowd were back in it.
On offense, De'Shean Butler, Kevin Jones and Darryl Bryant lead the comeback, scoring 26 of WVU's first 29 points of the second. Butler, the leading scorer entering the game, was held to 5 points on 2/8 shooting in the first, including 1/4 from deep. Though he did dish out all 5 of his helpers in the first, his 3 TO's helped the Buckeyes hold a 11-2 points off TO's edge in the first. He finished with 21 points, 8 boards, 5 dimes and those 3 TO's. He hit 5 of 7 in the second, including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc.
Bryant scored 14 in the game, including 9 in the second, but it was his 4 assists in the second that lead to another 10 Mountaineers points. Jones came in averaging almost 15 and was held scoreless in the first, missing all 3 of his shots, but he managed 9 points and 8 boards in the second. Jones also helped change the rebounding back in the favor of WVU, as they outrebounded the Bucks 21-9, including 8-1 on the offensive side in the second.
On defense, the length was just too much for the 4 guard system Thad rolls out. Turner didn't make a FG in the second, missing all 5 of his shots and not scoring until making a couple of FT's with 7:01 left. He finished with 18 points, 11 boards and 4 dimes, to go along with 4 turnovers and 2 steals. Diebler also missed all of his shots (3) in the final 20 minutes, managing just 2 FT's with 1:37 left, which were his first points since the 9:37 mark of the first half. He ended up with 11 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists and 0 steals. I also thought his slow-footed defense was a liability in the second half, as the Mountaineer players continually drove right around him.
Thankfully Will the Thrill continued to stroke from every where and kept the Bucks within striking distance. After the lead was cut to a point at 42-41, Will scored 11 of the next 14 Buckeye points, as the lead slipped away to a 54-57 deficit. Buford hit 5 of 7 in the second and finished with a season high 22 points on 9 of 13.
D-Light continued his recent struggles since Turner came back, scoring just 6 points in 40 minutes of play. Lighty was 2 of 6, was held without a rebound, dished out 4 assists, but also had 4 TO's. Since Turner's return, Lighty has hit double digits in 2 of 6 games and has collected just 13 rebounds in that span. Each player is vulnerable to a slump, but the Buckeyes obviously need his attacking edge on offense and he needs to get his groove back before Iowa on Wednesday.
West Virginia is the type of team that Ohio State was going to have trouble with before the season started. The Bucks simply don't have the strength and length the 'Neers possess and once the shots stopped falling, the fouls got a bit touchy and the crowd started greeting The Villian with a "F@*K You Turner" chant with 4:30 left, you had a feeling this one was going to the home team. You can't win on the road with only 1 FG over the last 8+ minutes and a team with WVU's height will outrebound the OSU almost every time.
It was a hard fought, entertaining game and it doesn't hurt the Buckeyes recent climb up the B10 standings. They make a trip to Iowa City on Wednesday at 8:30, before settling at home for a 3-game stretch.