While perennial do-gooder Aaron Craft was otherwise occupied by writing a letter of recommendation for a friend, LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr. both admitted to watching some earlier contests, including top-ranked Arizona's 72-70 come-from-behind win at Michigan.
For Ross, he was willing to put aside the Buckeyes' rivalry with the Wolverines for selfish reasons. With the Wildcats ranked No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches' Poll, one spot ahead of OSU, a Michigan win likely would have vaulted the Buckeyes into the top position.
"I was kind of rooting for Michigan, I'm not going to lie," Ross said. "Knowing that they had to beat Arizona, we probably would have moved up again."
He was quickly chastised by both teammates, including Craft, who interjected with, "I think he meant to say ‘That Team Up North.'"
When Ross was done expressing his desire for the No. 1 spot, he was followed on the podium by the coach trying to make that happen. Coaches of smaller teams, all of which have been on the losing end at Value City Arena this season, have a vested interest in lavishing praise upon the OSU team that just beat their squad. Bison coach Saul Phillips, however, held a high opinion of the Buckeyes before he saw them in person.
"You know, in the coaches' poll they had one first place vote. Guess who that first-place vote was," Phillips said, gesturing towards himself. "Didn't change my mind tonight. We're pretty good. I don't know if we always looked that way tonight, but I think that had a lot to do with them."
Coming off a program-defining win against Notre Dame, a team that OSU will face on Dec. 21 in Madison Square Garden as a part of the BlackRock Gotham Classic, the Bison were riding high entering the game against Ohio State. Unfortunately for NDSU, it also meant that OSU gave the visitors a full measure of respect. Coupled with the built-in advantages, it was too much.
"There's a reason those kids are at a Big Ten school," Phillips said. "There's a reason they're playing for Thad Matta in a beautiful building with all the amenities that go with it. They're bigger, stronger and faster at a lot of positions. When you add in skill part of it, it's a long road to haul. They were terrific tonight. We had their full attention, and they played very well. We had no answer for them."
On a night in which it led by 27 in the waning minutes before emptying the bench, Ohio State even managed to correct some issues that have plagued the team over the first month of play.
The Buckeyes managed to outrebound the Bison by a 36-26 margin and also held an advantage with points in the paint.
"They're a very good team," Phillips said. "They're very well coached. I was up all night a couple nights ago trying to find a weakness and then I realized they really don't have a lot."