Buckeyes Rout North Florida on Hot Shooting and Balance
By Rob Ogden
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Thanksgiving break meant very few students in the stands when Ohio State played North Florida Friday evening. Without the support of their peers, the Buckeyes put on perhaps their best show of the season.
Ohio State (6-0) shot a season-high 69.2 percent from the floor and 60.9 percent from 3-point range in a 99-64 win over the Ospreys (4-4).
"From start to finish we were probably more engaged and at the level we need to be," coach Thad Matta said.
Junior guard LaQuinton Ross, all but invisible in each of the Buckeyes' past three games, finally got off the schneid offensively, as he scored a season-high 17 points and added a team-leading 8 rebounds.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"He got into a little bit of a groove. I think he was humbled a little bit by the way he shot the ball the last few games," Matta said. "It was great to see the ball go in for him. Hopefully this will boost that confidence a little bit."
Ross' 17 points were more than twice as many as he had in his previous three games. Coming into Friday, he was 5-of-30 from the floor dating back to the Ohio game on Nov. 12.
North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll recruited Ross while he was an assistant at Baylor. He said he knew even before the ball was tipped that Ross was bound for a big game.
"At shoot-around this morning, it looked like he had a better spirit about himself," Driscoll said. "He looked like he was in a good place. It looked like he was locked in."
As a team, Friday night's performance was a stark contrast to the shooting struggles the Buckeyes had experienced nearly all season.
Five different Buckeyes finished in double-figures, including four of five starters. The exception, junior Shannon Scott, had 9 points.
For the third-consecutive game, and fourth time this season, junior center Amir Williams finished in double-figures, this time with a game-leading and career-high 18. He also added 7 boards.
Matta said he hopes Williams' streak is more than just a trend.
"I thought he really elevated his game," Matta said. "Guys did a nice job of finding him. We've got to put him in positions to be successful. He's playing so much more aggressive, which is great."
Amedeo Della Valle had a career-high 17 off the bench on 5-of-8 shooting from 3, Aaron Craft added 16 and Lenzelle Smith Jr. had 10.
"When guys see other guys make shots, it boosts everybody's confidence," Smith Jr. said. "That stuff catches on."
Ohio State's success wasn't limited to offense. Save for a stretch midway through the first half, the Buckeyes played suffocating defense, limiting the Ospreys to 38.5 percent shooting from the floor, though they did allow their opponents to convert on 9-of-19 attempts from 3.
The Buckeyes scored 17 points off of 18 North Florida turnovers and added 14 fast-break points.
Craft said it was the performance they had been waiting for.
"We wanted to come out and play a complete 40 minutes," he said. "We hadn't done that this year. We wanted to get off to a fast start."
Ohio State made 12 of its first 13 shots from the floor and opened the game on a 24-6 run. The Buckeye starters opened the game 15-for-15.
With the win, Craft and Smith Jr. earned their 100th victory at Ohio State. The duo, which did it in 119 games, became the fastest to 100 wins in Ohio State history.
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