Buckeyes outrun Asheville in win
Grammy-winning singer and pianist Bruce Hornsby sent a tweet to Ohio State coach Thad Matta on Friday night.
In it, he asked for the seventh-ranked Buckeyes to take it easy on his son, UNC Asheville guard Keith Hornsby, when the teams met on Saturday.
The Buckeyes obliged — Hornsby lit up the Buckeyes for a career-best 26 points — but Ohio State still had the last laugh.
”That’s just the way it is,” Matta cracked, parroting the title of the older Hornsby’s biggest hit.
Sam Thompson scored a career-high 18 points and Ohio State (8-1) relished the chance to get out and run in coasting to a 90-72 victory over the Bulldogs (3-7).
Deshaun Thomas had 17 points, Lenzelle Smith Jr. 16 and Evan Ravenel tied a career best with 12 points in the first half for the Buckeyes (8-1), who tuned up for a big showdown next Saturday against No. 9 Kansas in the fourth game in an eight-game homestand.
After playing a series of teams content to slow it down against a lean and fast team, the Buckeyes were like horses let out of a corral.
”We watched film a lot on them the past couple of days and we noticed that they didn’t stop the ball particularly well,” said Thompson, who electrified the crowd with a breakaway, windmill dunk after the game was long decided. ”We knew that if we could get stops, we knew we could push the ball up the floor and could get to the rim and create for ourselves and other people. We definitely tried to capitalize on that.”
They outscored the Bulldogs (3-7) 26-2 in fastbreak points and continually got behind them for easy baskets and rim-rattling dunks.
”The part I was most disappointed in from our standpoint is we didn’t get back on defense all night long and we let them penetrate,” Asheville coach Eddie Beidenbach said. ”We didn’t get down and play defense like we can. I know Ohio State’s really good, but they shouldn’t have been able to do that.”
The Buckeyes scored on 14 of 19 possessions during one span in the first half and took a 50-35 lead at the break.
They would have been up even more if not for Hornsby, who had 18 points in the opening half while hitting all but one of his eight shots from the field — including 4 of 5 3-pointers.
Everyone at Ohio State was impressed with the shooting display he put on.
”Honestly, he’s a good player,” said Smith, who was victimized for several long-range buckets despite playing solid defense. ”He came in here rolling. You’ve got a guy like that with a hot hand, you don’t contain him early in the game it’s always going to be tougher.”
The Buckeyes had three in double figures as they hurried the ball down the floor and frequently scored in transition.
Hornsby had five early points as the Bulldogs trailed 11-7 in the opening few minutes. Then Thomas hit a 3, Smith slashed through the heart of the defense for a layup and Thompson dunked off a fast break pass from Shannon Scott to make it 18-8.
The lead remained near double figures until Ravenel muscled in a shot inside and then hit a 12-foot jumper to make it 40-27.
With the game still played at a fast pace, the Buckeyes pulled away in the early stages of the second half.
Thompson scored seven points as Ohio State ripped off 15 of the first 18 points in the opening minutes to widen the advantage to 65-38. The Bulldogs never pulled close again.
The loudest cheer of the day came with 6:44 left when Thompson took a long pass behind the defense and threw down a windmill dunk that brought the Ohio State bench to its feet.
”I just wanted to do something to get some energy in the gym, pick our guys up and pick the crowd up,” said the high-flying wing, who some have called ”Slam” Thompson.
Thanks to all of those layups, the Buckeyes shot 59 percent from the field (36 of 61).
Hornsby, with his father watching from behind the Asheville bench, hit 9 of 12 shots from the field including 6 of 8 3-pointers, made both of his free throws and added five rebounds and an assist. Will Weeks added 14 points and Jeremy Atkinson 11.
”I was able to get some shots to go down and had a lot of help from my teammates to help me get open,” Hornsby said.
Hornsby’s previous career high was 23 earlier this season against another top team, North Carolina State. The Bulldogs hung around in that big intrastate showdown before falling 82-80 on Nov. 23.
”Obviously we didn’t do a good enough job of getting our guys to guard him because he’s much more athletic than most people think,” Matta said. ”As a sophomore to come in and do what he did, that was quite a performance.”
Despite Hornsby’s big day, the Buckeyes were pleased with how things turned out. They know they’ll have to run to score in a difficult Big Ten that includes several athletic teams.
”I really like this style and I think it fits well for this team,” Smith said. ”We got a lot of open looks just by running and playing naturally. We have a lot of athletes on this team. Just getting out and going allows us to be at the top of our game.”