Second Half Surge Lifts Buckeyes

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Last updated: 12/23/2011 0:32 AM

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Men's Basketball
Second-Half Surge Helps Matta’s Buckeyes Top Miami
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State won the game Thursday night but Miami University (Ohio) coach Charlie Coles stole the show.

William Buford
Photo by Dan Harker
William Bufiord

The 69-year old Springfield native is known as much for his sense of humor as his basketball understanding. The former was on full display after Miami’s 69-40 loss to the Buckeyes (12-1) at Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus.

“How do you tell your team Merry Christmas after this game,” Coles asked himself after a five-minute monologue about the referee who threatened him with a technical foul.

“I wanted to choke everybody in the locker room, but I had to stand up there and say don’t blow it. Remember Woody. OK, that might be too much, but it’s been long enough.”

The Redhawks fell behind 11-0 in the first four minutes of the game. They shot 31.6 percent from the floor in the first half and were 0-7 from behind the arc as Ohio State took a 26-17 lead into the locker room a halftime.

“Here’s what I had to do, say ‘Merry Christmas guys,’” Coles continued.

“Now you might think I was proud of myself. No I wasn’t. I went in that other room and said, ‘I hope they get no toys. Maybe I’ll steal their toys.’”

It was all in good fun for Coles, who coached with Ohio State head coach Thad Matta when he was an assist at Miami from 1996-97.

“I’m just joking. We played against what I think is the best team in the country, and they’re the smartest team in the country,” Coles said.

Aaron Craft
Photo by Dan Harker
Aaron Craft

“This team beats you because Aaron Craft says, ‘I don’t have to hurry to beat you guys.’ So he takes his time. He keeps the defensive pressure on, he doesn’t gamble, he runs the offense, and then Jared Sullinger is inside.”

Sullinger only tallied 11 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes Thursday night, but Craft dished out eight assists and sparked a 17-6 run by the Buckeyes to open the second half.

“He’s kind of everywhere,” Matta said.

“The other four guys out there are watching him. I single him out in film in a positive way, ‘if we could all be like this we’d never get scored on.’”

LaQuinton Ross
Photo by Dan Harker
LaQuinton Ross

The Redhawks did get 20 points and 10 rebounds from Indiana native Julian Mavunga, but the team was 2-of-14 behind the arc and shot just 32.6 percent from the floor. They also turned the ball over 18 times and were outscored 25-0 off turnovers.

“The biggest thing was getting back to playing our style,” Craft said after the win.

“The best way to improve tempo and get faster is increasing the defensive pressure. We were able to do that much better in the second half.”

In the last nonconference game before the start of Big Ten play, the Buckeyes got 18 points from senior William Buford and 15 points from sophomore Deshaun Thomas. They also got three points from freshman LaQuinton Ross, who saw his first action as a Buckeye since joining the team back on Dec. 9.

“Q is not ready at that level yet,” Matta said.

“Yesterday at practice I told him you can shoot the basketball, you just have to get your feet set, so it was probably a relief for him to knock that first one down. We just have to continue to bring him along.”

The Buckeyes shot 44.8 percent as a team and 12-of-17 at the free throw line, which comes as a relief for fans as this team heads in to conference play. They will have a few days off for the holidays before hosting Northwestern in the Big Ten opener on Dec. 28.

“We just have so far to go with continuing to mature and doing the little things to make us a better basketball team,” Matta said.

“Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we’re still a young team. We have some battles coming up, we have to be ready.”

Box Score
Season Stats Year to Date

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