Buckeyes Win Despite Sluggish Second Half

Propelled by an aggressive performance by Amir Williams, Ohio State earned a 87-71 win over Morehead State Saturday.

Amir Williams made his presence felt immediately Saturday. In the first three minutes of game action the Ohio State center had four points, three rebounds, two blocks and an assist to help the Buckeyes to an early 10-2 advantage over Morehead State.

Ohio State (8-1) wouldn’t look back, never trailing in its 87-71 win over the visiting Eagles (4-8) in front of 14,578 at Value City Arena.

“I think I played pretty good, still some areas that could be corrected but I just tried to get off to a good start,” Williams said. “Coach always tells me, and the players tell me as well if I come out with energy it gets my teammates going as well. So I try to come out, play with as much energy as I can and set the tone early for us. We jumped out quick, got a quick lead on the team and I think it just didn't look back from there.”

Williams matched his season high in points with 12 and rebounds with nine while adding five blocks. The senior went down with a left ankle injury with just under seven minutes remaining. The injury wasn’t serious, Williams said, but head coach Thad Matta elected to keep the center on the bench for the remainder of the game.

After the Buckeyes fast start, Morehead State got within three, but Ohio State used a methodical 29-13 run to close the half and turn a narrow 18-15 advantage into a 47-28 halftime edge. It appeared the team got too comfortable from there.

The Eagles shot 62.5 percent in the second half and outscored Ohio State by three points. The Buckeyes helped Morehead State’s cause with 14 second half turnovers.

Morehead State was successful offensively largely with quick shots after breaking through the Buckeyes press defense. Offensively, Ohio State seemed to be forcing things against an increased level of pressure form the Eagles.

“I think for me there’s probably a lot of teaching points out of this that we have to take and look at when we get back in here and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to sure these things up,’” Matta said. “I think the biggest thing was the ball handling in the second half and that ignited to easy points for them, probably helped their field goal percentage.”

Still, Ohio State was able to do enough to secure a 16-point win. D'Angelo Russell and Sam Thompson led the Buckeyes with 15 points apiece while Russell added seven assists and Thompson had five. Jae’Sean Tate was also in double figures, scoring 12.

Eagles reserve guard Corban Collins was the game’s leading scoring, notching a career-high 22 points with six threes.

Thompson said he was happy with the victory, but like his coach was not happy with the team’s play in the second half.

“We played a really good first half and we sort of let our guard down in the second half,” the forward said. “We didn't have that same type of energy and intensity and execution in the second half on both sides of the floor. I think we were gambling too much on defense, we were giving up too many open shots, too many second chance opportunities, points off turnovers. So there's some things that we gotta sure up, but again it was a good win against a very good team and happy to get out of here with another win.”

The win came despite 17 total turnovers from the Buckeyes, five each from point guards Shannon Scott and Russell. Matta credited the Morehead State pressure for some of the missteps, but said that type of performance was not acceptable from his lead guards.

Despite the sloppy play, the Buckeyes were able to keep the Eagles at bay with their success at the free-throw line. Ohio State had a season high in makes and attempts from the line, connecting on 21 of their 27 attempts.

In the end, the Buckeyes got another double-digit win over another nonconference opponent. The fact that Morehead State made things difficult for Ohio State in the second half, however, gives the team something to work on going forward.

“This is a learning experience for us, we gotta do a better job handling the pressure,” Thompson said. “We haven't shown ourselves to handle the pressure well all season so we're just going to keep learning from it. Definitely needed. We definitely needed something like that.”


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