Diebler shoots No. 2 Ohio State to win
Nine straight times Jon Diebler flicked his wrist behind the arc, and every time the ball swished through the net.
It was one of the greatest shooting performances ever for an Ohio State player.
Diebler matched an Ohio State record with those nine 3-pointers, scoring a career-high 29 points and leading the second-ranked Buckeyes past Florida Gulf Coast 83-55 on Wednesday night.
"I knew I missed my first two of the game and Coach told me I wasn’t ready to shoot and to just get ready and get my feet set," the senior guard said. "I started doing that and they started falling for me."
Boy, did they. After hitting nine in a row, he stayed in another 4 minutes but missed his last three attempts at the record. That made him 9 for 14 overall on 3s.
"When he let it go, you felt good that it was going to go in," coach Thad Matta said. "Even the last couple he missed I thought were pretty good looks and had a chance."
Matta said it was more than just a sharp night.
"The thing about Jon, and I’ve said this since the day he got here, for every nine he made, he’s probably shot 90,000 in the offseason," he said. "To see him shoot the ball like this is rewarding because the work’s paying off."
Diebler passed another former Ohio State star, Jay Burson, to become Ohio’s leading high school scorer four years ago. The nine 3s were a Value City Arena record and tied the school mark previously held by Burson.
"We can’t get away from each other, I guess," Diebler said with a grin.
He now has made a school-best 291 shots behind the arc. With his second 3 of the game, Diebler moved past Indiana’s A.J. Guyton (1997-2000) into seventh place all-time in 3-pointers made by Big Ten players.
FGCU coach Dave Balza said it was the best 3-point marksmanship he had seen since one of his own players, Ryan Hopkins, had a similar game in 2002.
"[Hopkins] was here in the building tonight," Balza said. "After the game, as I was walking by him, I said, ‘Well, that’s the best shooting performance I’ve ever seen.’ Just to rub it into him a little bit."
William Buford became the 47th Buckeye player to reach the 1,000-point career mark, finishing with 17 points. Jared Sullinger, the Buckeyes’ 6-foot-9 center, added 11 for Ohio State (9-0). He had scored 40 points, a freshman school record, just two games ago.
"Eventually we’re going to have to put it together," Matta said. "That’s a thing we’re still striving for. That’s kind of how we preach to our team, that we want to be able to strike inside and outside."
Chase Fieler had 12 points and Anthony Banks 10 for the Eagles (2-6), playing their first game after an 11-day break.
Diebler made three 3-pointers in an 11-0 run in the first half that put the Buckeyes in command.
The Eagles were intent on preventing Sullinger from going off on them. As a result, they tried to pack the middle whenever possible.
"Ohio State does such a good job of taking what the opponents give them," Balza said. "We spent a lot of time watching IUPUI because it’s one of the few teams that really zoned Ohio State for the majority of the game. And obviously Sullinger had 40 [points] and 17 [rebounds], so he had a career night that night. You kind of pick and choose which poison with Ohio State."
The Buckeyes took control early and never let up, thanks to Diebler. They led 7-0 after the opening 2 1/2 minutes. After Fieler hit a 3 to put the Eagles on the board, Ohio State ran off the next 11 points — with Diebler hitting three 3s in that run.
The second half was never close as the Buckeyes led by 32 while trying to blend in their six freshmen with four veteran starters.
When it was over, Matta told Diebler he was lucky.
"I told him afterward, ‘You’re just fortunate I didn’t have a chance to play in this building,’" he said, laughing.