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Last updated: 11/22/2011 11:41 AM

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Men's Basketball
Buckeyes Fly Past North Florida, Beat Ospreys 85-50
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeyes were struggling to find their offense in the early minutes of Monday night’s game against North Florida, so they let their defense do the work in a 85-50 win at Value City Arena.

Lenzelle Smith flies for a dunk against the Ospreys
Photo by Jim Davidson
Lenzelle Smith

Led by the backcourt of Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr., Ohio State (4-0) forced the visiting Ospreys (1-4) into 23 turnovers, which they quickly turned in to 25 points at the other end.

“Any team that wants to be good needs to convert turnovers into buckets,” said Smith, who had three steals to go with seven points, five rebounds and five assists.  

Smith also sparked the Buckeyes with a couple crowd-pleasing dunks in transition that helped Ohio State overcome a sluggish start for a 35-point win. It was their second of four games in an eight-day span.

“We didn’t come out with any juice, any energy or any intensity,” sophomore Jared Sullinger said after the game. 

“We came out expecting to win because we are Ohio State. We realized this team wasn’t scared to play and obviously it showed in the first half.”

Jared Sullinger
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jared Sullinger

The Buckeyes did not do a good enough job executing their offense in the first 10 minutes, which meant very few opportunities for Sullinger, the reigning National Freshman of the Year. They got out to a quick 11-6 lead in the first four minutes of the game, but North Florida cut the deficit down to three on a triple by Jerron Granberry at the 10:51 mark in the first half.

“Obviously when you play a team like this, that is as talented as they are, ranked as high as they are, coming off your third game in five days, the one thing you want to do is look for resolve,” North Florida Head Coach Matthew Driscoll said.

“You are trying to look for your guys to get after it and compete. It was 15-12 at the 12 minute media timeout. They went on a 20-2 run after that and a 10-2 run to start the second half. Those runs are hard to go against. When you have runs like that you can really separate yourself.”

Sullinger finally got his first basket of the night on a layup with 9:26 to play to in the first half after Ohio State Head Coach Thad Matta challenged his star forward to play more selfishly.

“Going into tonight’s game we really wanted to get off to a good start and I’m not sure we did that,” Matta said.

“I had to get on some guys in a timeout in the first half and after that I think we really responded. After the first half I think we did a good job of getting the ball to Sullinger, I wanted to get him going and obviously he did.”

Once he got on the board, Sullinger could not be contained. He scored 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to go with three steals in 27 minutes. The Buckeyes also got a career-high 16 points and six rebounds from Deshaun Thomas, who had one of his better games at Ohio State.

“Coach always said we get good looks when we shoot it inside,” said the sophomore from Indiana.

“When we get it inside to Sullinger and me, our percentages go up.”

They certainly couldn’t have gone down. The Buckeyes made just four of their 17 shots from behind the arc, and they weren’t very good at the free throw line either. Sullinger was 9-of-10 at the charity stripe, but his teammates were a combined 16-of-30 at the line.

“It is a mental toughness week,” said Sullinger, who recorded the 20th double-double of his career.

“With a game, practice, game, practice, game, we only have to get better.”

The Buckeyes closed out the first half on a 21-7 run to take a 45-26 lead into the locker rooms. They came out on a quick 11-2 blitz in the second half and led 56-28 at the first media timeout.

“We made some good adjustments in the second half and Aaron (Craft) took it to another level,” Matta said.

“Even in the Florida game our adjustments really worked to our advantage later in the game. And that’s something that has to continue to be a work in progress.”

Craft had only two points, but grabbed five rebounds and three steals to go with three assists. The Buckeyes outscored the Ospreys 40-24 in the second half thanks to their dominance inside. They scored 44 points in the paint and shot 46.7 percent from the floor.

Senior William Buford added 13 points, five rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes. Freshman Shannon Scott added five points off the bench and sophomore J.D. Weatherspoon gave them six points, including two monstrous dunks.

The Buckeyes will have a quick turnaround as they take the court against VMI Tuesday night (7 p.m. ET, BTN) in Columbus.

“I do (like playing games close together) because I have to do it,” Matta added.

“It’s a positive for our guys, and now we have to get ourselves ready to go for the next game. So, we’ll show some clips and get ready for VMI.”

Box Score
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