Buckeyes Lockup Cowboys in 65-50 win

For the second consecutive game, the No. 7 Ohio State men's basketball team found itself struggling with an undermanned opponent. But once again, the Buckeyes were able to weather the storm, picking up a 65-50 win over Wyoming in the process.

After a closer than expected first 30 minutes that saw his team trailing with fewer than 14 minutes of action remaining, Ohio State head coach Thad Matta didn't mince words when it came to importance of the Buckeyes' defensive effort for the remainder of their game against Wyoming.

"It was do or die," Matta said emphatically.

Ohio State chose the former, holding the Cowboys to just three points and no made field goals in the game's final 10 minutes. And as a result, the No. 7 Buckeyes (5-0) were able to walk away with a comfortable 65-50 victory over their foe from the Mountain West Conference.

OSU's second half stretch was a stark contrast from an opening stanza that saw Wyoming (4-2) convert on 55.6 percent of its field goal attempts. The Buckeyes still managed to take a 38-34 lead into halftime, thanks in large part to 12 points from senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr., who connected on three of his five 3-pointers for the game in the first half.

Smith's smooth stroke couldn't have come at a better time for an Ohio State team that has struggled with putting the ball in the basket on a consistent basis in the first two weeks of the season.

"I just took what the defense gave us," said Smith, who finished the night with a game-high 20 points. "I was able to knock down my first three and my team was able to get me the ball. I had some good looks at it, so from a shooter's standpoint, I just caught it, kept my feet under me, and just let it go."

After not attempting a shot in all of the first half, OSU senior point guard Aaron Craft aided with classmate with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting in the second half. The preseason national player of the year award candidate played a crucial role in the Buckeyes' comeback effort, hitting consecutive layups to tie and stretch Ohio State's lead to seven points with 6:39 remaining in the contest, as the Buckeyes finished the game on a 17-3 run.

Craft's said that his late arrival offensively was more of a result of him doing what was needed from him, than it was anything else.

"My teammates were making all their shots. When we do that, we try to be a basketball team that finds the hot hand," Craft said. "There's no need to force anything when you have guys making shots."

Another player making shots for the Buckeyes on Monday was center Amir Williams, who posted his second consecutive double-double of the season with 12 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. The junior from Detroit has been adding an extra element to the OSU offense that wasn't seen a year ago, and could prove to be crucial to the Buckeyes' success come Big Ten season.

"It's hard to leave his body now," Matta said of Williams. "You saw the effects of when they did leave his body to go challenge in the offensive rebounds. That's kind of the beauty in what you want offensively and trying to space the floor."

On Wyoming's end, the Cowboys were led by Akron native and Revere High School product Larry Nance Jr. The son of former NBA star Larry Nance, the younger Nance scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against the Buckeyes in his semi-homecoming.

"It was really cool to get back home," Nance said of his return to the Buckeye State. "That's like a dream come true, playing on this court."

With its win over Wyoming in the books, the Buckeyes will now look ahead to a Friday post-Thanksgiving tipoff with North Florida. Ohio State's next significant test of the season sits right around the corner, however, in the form of a Dec. 4 ACC-Big Ten Challenge showdown with Maryland.

Having won some closely contested games already, the Buckeyes are far from do or die mode just yet, but Matta admitted that his team still has significant progress to make in the coming weeks.

"We're still a ways away from where I'd like to be," Matta said. "I think you look across college basketball and everybody's probably in that mold."

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