Ohio State baskeball: Buckeyes enjoy easy Big Ten win

RUSTY MILLER AP Sports Writer Published:

COLUMBUS (AP) -- Ohio State coach Thad Matta was asked how good it was that his team had a relatively easy time of it in cruising to a lopsided win in their Big Ten opener.

"Hopefully the next 17 are exactly (like that)," he cracked, his voice trailing off as he flashed a smile.

Deshaun Thomas outscored Nebraska 18-17 in the first half and finished with 22 points to lead the eighth-ranked Buckeyes past the Cornhuskers 70-44 on Wednesday night.

The Buckeyes led by at least 20 points for almost all of the second half.

How bad was it for the Cornhuskers (9-5, 0-1)? Only 8:27 remained when they finally exceeded the 31 points that their football counterparts scored in a 14-point loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl a day earlier.

"If you don't have any (questions), you won't hurt my feelings," first-year coach Tim Miles joked when he first sat down with reporters after the game.

There were plenty of questions, but not many answers.

The Buckeyes (11-2, 1-0) dominated at both ends while the Cornhuskers had difficulty finding the basket. They shot just 26 percent from the field in the opening half while falling behind big and finished at 30 percent.

Thomas and Ohio State's sticky defense made certain the Buckeyes had an easy time of it.

"Coach (Matta) told me, 'I need you to start out well,'" said Thomas, who played only sparingly in the second half. "The whole team got off fast. And our rotations were good on defense and we got stops when we needed. It was on from there -- fastbreaks and dunks and everybody was just rolling."

Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 17 points for Ohio State, which won its 15th consecutive Big Ten home opener. The Buckeyes have a tough test on Saturday at No. 11 Illinois.

Matta was happy he was able to substitute liberally in the second half to rest his starters.

"Honestly, with three games in six days, and two of them on the road, that was probably advantageous for us," he said.

Thomas' big half spelled doom for the Cornhuskers, who came in 6-1 when holding opponents to 60 or fewer points -- and 3-3 when they did not.

Nebraska, last in the Big Ten in scoring (61.7 points per game), never had the firepower to get back in the game.

Ray Gallegos had 14 points to lead Nebraska. He said the Buckeyes' defense made everything difficult.

"They were just pressuring everybody," he said. "They were tuned in to what we were doing. They made it tough for us, inside and out."

Nebraska had difficulty getting anything going on offense, particularly struggling to get points inside. When the Huskers drove to the hoop, Aaron Craft was there to pester the ballhandler into a turnover. If they got past him, Ohio State centers Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel stood in the way and blocked or altered shots.

"Coach (Matta) talks about me being a force around the basket, just challenging every shot whether they were driving the ball or trying to shoot over me," said Williams, who made the second start of his career. "I had four blocks today and I think I altered maybe four more. So I did a pretty good job."

At the other end, Thomas scored five points early and then scored seven of the last nine as the Buckeyes ended the half on a 9-0 run. Thomas had one more field goal than Nebraska did -- in 15 fewer attempts in the opening half.

He hit 8 of 12 shots from the field including half of his four 3-point attempts. The rest of the Buckeyes were just 7 of 21 (33 percent).

Ohio State scored the first five points of the second half to swell its run to 14-0 and its lead to 41-17. The lead never dropped below 20 again.

Craft was scoreless but finished with eight assists, no turnovers, six rebounds and three steals to disrupt Nebraska's offense.

"That was a fun game. Getting into the Big Ten and being 1-0 is huge," he said. "The Big Ten is very physical. You kind of want to throw the first punch."

Matta heaped praise on Thomas, and then poured some on Craft.

"He was tremendous. He did a couple of things that nobody would ever pick up on but they were elements of scouting that were touched on," Matta said. "His ability to see it and then react as quick as he does is amazing. He had a great impact on the ballgame, both offensively and defensively."

Craft said he was trying to get across to the younger players the demands of the Big Ten.

"That's the biggest thing you have to try to get across to the guys who don't play as much or haven't in the past years -- every team can go off and you can be knocked off," he said. "You have to have the right mindset, right attitude, every day in practice and in games. We've done that up to this point. With a quick turnaround, two quick road games, hopefully we can do the same thing."


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Ryan Kelly scored 18 points to help Duke remain unbeaten with a win over Davidson.

Quinn Cook scored 15 points and Mason Plumlee scored eight of his 10 in the second half for the Blue Devils (13-0), who are one of only four undefeated teams remaining in Division I.

The game was tied 29-all at halftime before Duke opened the second half with a 12-0 run. The Blue Devils, who led by as many as 19 in the second half, heated up from 3-point range after the break, going 3 for 4 in the early minutes of the period.

Jake Cohen led Davidson (7-6) with 19 points and eight rebounds.


LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Russ Smith scored 23 points and Louisville shot 53 percent to run away from Providence in the Big East Conference opener for both teams.

Gorgui Dieng and Luke Hancock each added 11 points, and Chane Behanan and Peyton Siva had 10 each as the Cardinals (13-1, 1-0) won their eighth straight.

Louisville, coming off Saturday's 80-77 victory over archrival Kentucky, didn't let down against Providence. Motivated by the memory of last season's 31-point road loss to the Friars, the Cardinals responded by handing Providence its worst defeat of the season.

Kadeem Batts had 17 points for Providence (8-5, 0-1), which fell to 0-7 all-time in Louisville.


SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Jim Boeheim notched his 903rd career victory, breaking a tie with Bob Knight for second all-time among Division I men's coaches, and No. 7 Syracuse rolled past Rutgers 78-53 on Wednesday night in the Big East opener for both teams.

Boeheim, in his 37th season at his alma mater, trails only Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, who has 940 victories after his top-ranked Blue Devils beat Davidson 67-50.

Syracuse (13-1, 1-0) has won 33 straight home games, the longest active streak in the nation, and has beaten Rutgers (9-3, 0-1) 13 straight times. The Orange's last home loss was to Georgetown, 64-56, on Feb. 9, 2011.

Brandon Triche had a season-high 25 points, hitting 5 of 7 3-point attempts, and added six assists to lead Syracuse. Michael Carter-Williams finished with 12 points and 10 assists, his eighth double-double, and C.J. Fair had 15 points and three blocks.

Eli Carter led Rutgers with 19 points.


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Terone Johnson scored a career-high 25 points and D.J. Byrd scored nine of his 15 during a key 19-3 second-half run, sending the Boilermakers past Illinois.

Byrd sealed the game with a three-point play with 20.1 seconds to go.

The Boilermakers (7-6, 1-0 Big Ten) have won three straight and are over .500 for the first time this season. They have won eight straight over the Fighting Illini.

Illinois (13-2, 0-1) was led by Brandon Paul with 15 points and Joseph Bertrand with 14, but managed only one basket during a decisive 5 1/2-minute stretch of the second half. Illinois has lost eight straight conference road games, dating to a Jan. 4, 2012 win at Northwestern.


NORMAL, Ill. -- Ethan Wragge was 6 of 9 from 3-point range and scored 18 points to lead Creighton over Illinois State.

Grant Gibbs had 16 points for the Bluejays (13-1, 2-0 Missouri Valley Conference), while leading scoring Doug McDermott (23.5 points per game) finished with 15 points and nine rebounds.

NO. 17 BUTLER 70, PENN 57

INDIANAPOLIS -- Roosevelt Jones scored a career-high 24 points to lead Butler over Penn for its eighth consecutive victory.

Butler (11-2) has opened the new year with a victory for the ninth straight season. The Bulldogs won their sixth straight at Hinkle Fieldhouse.



LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Point guard Ryan Harrow finished with 15 points and a season-high eight assists, and Kentucky rolled Eastern Michigan for a 90-38 win in the Wildcats' final nonconference game of the season.

Harrow scored in double figures for his fourth straight game after tallying a total of 14 points in his first five of the season.

Kentucky (9-4) never struggled against the Eagles (7-6), using nine unanswered points to create separation early and a 17-2 run midway through the first Glenn Bryant led the Eagles with 10 points.


CLEVELAND -- Kris Brewer and Randal Holt scored 17 points apiece as Kent State pulled away in the second half to beat Cleveland State 72-55.

Chris Evans added 11 points and a game-high nine rebounds to help Kent State (8-5) win its fourth straight game.


MUNCIE, Ind. -- Jesse Berry scored 21 points to help Ball State beat Norfolk State 62-61.

Berry was 6 of 11 from the field. Jauwan Scaife added 18 points for the Cardinals (6-6). Chris Bond had nine rebounds.


OXFORD -- Raphiael Putney scored 20 points and Chaz Williams made a late, go-ahead jumper to lift Massachusetts over Miami (Ohio) 70-69.

Jesse Morgan had 12 and Williams finished with 10 for UMass (9-3), which has won six straight games. The Minutemen also secured their seventh straight road victory, the program's longest road streak since the 1997-98 season.


AKRON -- Zeke Marshall was one of three Akron players with a double-double in the Zips' 91-63 rout of Coppin State 91-63.

Jake Kretzer and Nick Harney scored 14 points apiece, with 12 and 11 rebounds, respectively, while Marshall finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Brian Walsh added 14 points for the Zips (9-4).


TULSA, Okla. -- James Woodard had 22 points and eight rebounds and Pat Swilling Jr. added 11 points as Tulsa pulled away late for a 63-57 victory against Buffalo.



WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Travis McKie scored 19 points and Wake Forest beat Xavier 66-59 for its third straight win.

Codi Miller-McIntyre had 16 points, C.J. Harris added 15 and the Demon Deacons (7-5) erased their only deficit of the second half by scoring 12 straight points. They matched their longest winning streak under third-year coach Jeff Bzdelik.

Travis Taylor had 18 points -- but just two in the second half -- and 10 rebounds for the Musketeers (7-6).

They rallied from 11 points down and took a 49-48 lead on Jeff Robinson's jumper with just under seven minutes left.

But Xavier came up empty on eight straight possessions and went scoreless for 4 1/2 critical minutes, and the Demon Deacons took over.


CHICAGO -- Gary Talton drilled a go-ahead 3-pointer with 17 seconds remaining and made three free throws to protect the lead as Illinois-Chicago defeated Youngstown State 65-60.


IPFW 68, NAVY 63

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) -- Luis Jacobo scored 22 points and IPFW defeated Navy 68-63.

Jacobo also had three steals and was 5 for 9 from beyond the 3-point line. Frank Gaines added 17 points and Joe Edwards scored 15 for the Mastodons (7-9), who shot 50 percent in each half.

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