Much like the weather phenomenon of a gale, Roddy Gayle Jr. provided a gust of offense for Ohio State on Wednesday.
The sophomore racked up 20 points – one short of his career-high against Purdue in last season's Big Ten Tournament – on an efficient 8-for-12 shooting and 3-for-4 beyond the arc as the Buckeyes defeated Merrimack 76-52.
Ohio State slogged through much of the contest but eventually pulled away from the Warriors with a 16-0 second-half run that took all of 3:29 off the clock, taking the Buckeyes from up six to up 22.
Jamison Battle followed up Gayle's 20 with 13 points of his own, nine of them in the second half. Zed Key made it three Buckeyes in double figures with 11 points.
Ohio State also got after it on the glass, enjoying a 42-25 rebounding advantage and 14-0 edge in second-chance points.
Gayle kickstarted Ohio State's offense in the first two minutes, splashing a pair of 3s in a personal 6-0 run to open the contest.
The Buckeyes gained some more separation later in the opening period by finding a common soft spot in zone defenses – the elbow. Gayle and Battle hit back-to-back shots from the spot and the lead grew to 14-7 with 14:15 to play in the first half.
Gayle got to work again to expand Ohio State's lead six minutes later, slashing to the rim to take a bounce pass from Devin Royal and slam it home, then finding Royal with a slick feed of his own to make the tally 23-11 Ohio State.
The Warriors answered back with a 7-0 run, getting a pair of layups from point guard Adam Clark, but soon fouls were starting to stack up on Merrimack. Two Merrimack players picked up three first-half fouls as another three picked up a pair to give Ohio State 20 free-throw opportunities in the opening 20 minutes, with the Buckeyes converting 15 of those chances.
After the scarlet and gray split a pair on four consecutive trips to the line, Key drew a bit of an uproar from the crowd when he hit both to make it 29-23 Ohio State. That stood as part of a string of six consecutive makes before a Gayle layup closed the scoring for OSU.
It was a good thing the Buckeyes made those 15 free throws, because they shot just 32% from the field in the opening half. They took a 35-29 lead into halftime.
|26-59 (44.1%)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||20-50 (40%)|
|8-14 (57.1%)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||9-25 (25%)|
|16-23 (69.6%)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||3-5 (60%)|
Ohio State's offense came out cold, with the team taking more than three minutes to break through on the scoreboard in the second half.
When the points started flowing, Gayle was once again the catalyst. He converted an and-one layup then drew the loudest pop of the night from the Value City Arena crowd when he slammed home an alley-oop pass on a side-out from Bruce Thornton.
It catalyzed a 10-0 run that gave Ohio State its largest lead thus far at 45-31 with 12:33 to play.
Still, Merrimack didn't go away, cutting the Buckeyes' advantage back to six at 49-43.
Once again, Gayle kept Ohio State at arm's distance. He dribbled into an open triple and knocked it down, then got some help on a second-chance layup from Key and a trio of jumpers from Battle to push forth the 16-0 run that sealed its win. The Buckeyes led 65-43 with 5:32 to play, and Merrimack never climbed back within 10 points.
Ohio State plays the final of four consecutive home games to open its season against Western Michigan on Sunday in Value City Arena. The contest tips off at 4 p.m. on Big Ten Network.
- Freshman center Austin Parks made his first career appearance for the Buckeyes, playing two minutes.
- Freshman forward Devin Royal scored his first four career points, going 2-for-4 from the field in six minutes.
- Ohio State recorded 16 assists against 13 turnovers.