On military appreciation night the Buckeyes showed little no regard for the members of the Air Force across the court from them.
Ohio State (4-4) dominated visiting Air Force in the first ever meeting between the teams, running away with a 74-50 victory over the Falcons (6-3) to climb back to .500 and string together consecutive wins, putting a four game losing streak that lasted from Nov. 20 to Dec. 1 further in the rear view mirror.
The Buckeyes never trailed in the win and led for all but 48 seconds of the contest.
“It feels pretty good," junior Marc Loving said of the second straight win, "But it feels better to know that we executed our game plan and we were able to follow through with that the whole game.”
Ohio State began the game on a 9-2 run with Jea’Sean Tate and Trevor Thompson doing all the scoring. Tate hit a layup and a three while Thompson scored four inside. The center was starting his second straight game for Daniel Giddens as the freshman sat out with strained hamstring after missing the Dec. 5 game due to illness.
Air Force put together a 9-4 run to stay within striking distance at 13-11 before things got especially ugly for the Falcons. Air Force went on a field goal drought of nearly eight minutes from there, allowing the Buckeyes to close the half on a methodical 24-5 run and take a 37-16 lead into the locker room.
“I liked the fact that starting with the defense in the first half we really did the job that we were supposed to do and how we wanted to do it," coach Thad Matta said of his team. "The offense that Air Force runs is a timing, you get a flow to it. I thought our guys did a pretty good job of being disruptive just in terms of doing what we wanted to do.
"I thought we had a pretty good flow, we were taking care of the ball in the first half and that’s how this team has to play. The more the ball moves the better team we are.”
The dismal end of the half from the Falcons featured a 5:38 scoring drought as Air Force made just two field goals over the final 14:43 of the first half, including field goal droughts of 7:57 and 6:43.
Things could have gotten much more out of hand before the break, but Ohio State failed to fully capitalize on the dismal shooting of Air Force.
After a transition dunk from Keita Bates-Diop made it 20-11 with 11:31 left in the half, the Buckeyes went cold for more than five minutes. Over that stretch Ohio State went 1 of 10 from the field, missing all six threes it attempted.
That was finally snapped with a three from JaQuan Lyle with 6:07 remaining that was followed by a Dave Bell tip-in, four Bates-Diop points and a dunk by Bell of a laser of an entry pass from A.J. Harris which made it 31-14 with 3:37 left to the break.
"We had some opportunities to convert and we didn’t convert in transition, but the looks we got I thought were pretty decent shots," Matta said of the poor offensive stretch. "We had a couple ill-advised, but we finally found our rhythm there after the first timeout in the second half and Marc kind of got us going.”
With the lopsided score and some foul trouble to starters as Jae’Sean Tate sat the final 12 minutes of the first half with two personal fouls, head coach Thad Matta substituted liberally. Nine different players logged at least five minutes in the first half.
Things went better for Air Force in the second half as the Falcons scoring six of the first eight points in the period and were only outscored by three over the final 20 minutes, but the game was well out of hand by then. A layup Marc Loving with 12:45 remaining made it 47-27 and the Ohio State advantage would not fall below 20 for the rest of the evening.
That layup was the start of a 16-4 run by Ohio State that pushed its advantage to 30, the largest of the night.
Matta removed his starters for good and inserted walk-on Joey Lane with the Buckeyes up 70-42 with 3:40 remaining. Lane scored his first career point with a free throw with 2:20 remaining as all 10 Buckeyes who played scored.
Loving led all scorers with 18, adding 10 rebounds for his third career and second consecutive double-double. Lyle and Tate were in double figures with 12 and 11, respectively.