Bucks Roll Past Jackson State

The Ohio State basketball team blew out Jackson State 85-41 in Value City Arena Friday night. The Buckeyes, who improved their record to 3-0, were able to go a lot deeper on its bench than it did in its previous win over No. 7 Florida.

Tevester Anderson didn't mind gushing over Ohio State moments after the No. 3 Buckeyes manhandled his Jackson State squad 85-41.

That's because Anderson felt like his previous feelings about Ohio State were only confirmed after voting the Buckeyes as the No. 1 team in the coaches' poll in the week leading up to the Nov. 18 matchup in front of 14,621 fans in Value City Arena.

"Seeing them close up," Anderson said in his postgame press conference, "didn't change my mind at all. I thought they were just as good as North Carolina coming into this season and (this game) just reinforced that."

Sophomore big man Jared Sullinger led the way for Ohio State (3-0) with 20 points and 11 rebounds in only 21 minutes of action, helping the Buckeyes maintain momentum after knocking off No. 7 Florida earlier in the week.

Starters Deshaun Thomas and William Buford both scored 11 points and reserve guard Jordan Sibert knocked down all of Ohio State's three shots from beyond the arc en route to scoring 11 points of his own.

But it was sophomore Aaron Craft who once again led the Buckeyes with his defensive intensity, as the guard grabbed five steals to overshadow only accounting for two points in the game.

To Anderson, the entire Ohio State package looked like a team destined to make a trip to the Final Four. Ohio State head coach Thad Matta appreciated the sentiment, but instead analyzed his team a little more harshly.

"I don't think this team is anywhere near as good as they can be," Matta said. "We have a long way to go."

Despite facing a 1-point deficit roughly six minutes into the game, Ohio State was sparked by a pair of Craft forced turnovers less than 20 seconds apart before stringing together an 18-0 run to put the game out of hand early.

The turnovers Craft forced were only two of the six Jackson State committed in the following 3½ minutes in which the Buckeyes increased its 1-point advantage to 15 points. Craft finished the first half with four of his five steals, helping the Buckeyes score 23 points off Tigers miscues before turning a back-and-forth game early into a 46-17 blowout at the half.

"My job is to set the tone on defense," Craft admitted. "If I'm slacking, the rest of the team has a tendency to not play as hard on that side of the ball. I have to be 100 percent focused on defense at all times.

"One thing (I) had to do was get us going, get us up-tempo and the best way to do that is to get some steals on defense, to get some easy baskets, and we were fortunate enough to do that."

Matta admitted he hoped his Ohio State basketball team would get to the point where he could feel comfortable with a nine-man rotation before opening up Big Ten play in December. The rout of the Tigers gave Matta the perfect opportunity to be loose with his bench while moving in that direction.

Though Evan Ravenel and Sibert were the only two players to play more than three minutes off the bench in Ohio State's win over Florida, Matta was able to use his reserves freely in the second half. Matta's entire 12-man roster got into the game, 11 of which ended up scoring.

Starting the second half with his five starters on the floor, however, Matta's team continued to keep the pressure on Jackson State while scoring 32 of the first 45 points of the final 20 minutes of the game.

Sophomore point guard Shannon Scott had five assists and three steals, freshman center Amir Williams had five points and seven rebounds, and sophomore J.D. Weatherspoon scored eight points and grabbed three rebounds.

"We have to be continuing as best as we can to develop all of the young guys," Matta said. "It's different in the game with a uniform on and playing against an opponent. It was good to get the young guys as many minutes as we could. They were able to get out a lot of minutes out there tonight."

The win over the Tigers gave the Buckeyes its third win in as many games as part of the Global Sport Shootout. Jackson State, however, didn't fare well in its four games of the tournament. The loss to the Buckeyes marked the fourth-consecutive blowout loss to kick off the season, as the Tigers fell by 40 points in their season opener at Florida. Jackson State lost 92-59 at Baylor Nov. 13 and 56-39 at Wright State three days later.

The Buckeyes forced Jackson State to turn the ball over 26 times which turned into 41 points for Ohio State off of turnovers, matching the Tigers' total offensive output for the game. Ohio State, who scored 50 points in the paint, shot 47.9 percent from the floor and got 38 points from its bench players.

"One of the things we talked about before the game was coming off the Florida game last year in Gainesville, what we did when we came home against Wilmington," Matta said. "I put the numbers up on the board. We were up 46-18 at halftime and won it 81-41. It looks like by the scores there, they kind of took to heart what we were talking about."

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