It took about 10 minutes for Ohio State to shake off the rust from its brief holiday hiatus, and while it came in fits and starts from there, Keita Bates-Diop kept the Buckeyes rolling.
Ohio State (8-5) started slow as it has often this season and trailed the Bulldogs (5-9) by four twice over the games first 10 minutes, but used a 23-4 run to turn a 15-11 deficit into a 34-19 advantage. That spurt have the Buckeyes control for good on their way to a 73-57 victory and a fourth straight win.
The big first-half run, which lasted 9:46, saw a scoring explosion from Bates-Diop. The sophomore hit four threes over that stretch and scored 14 of his 17 first-half points.
"I thought that he did a great job of finding space," head coach Thad Matta said of Bates-Diop. "Guys found him when he was open.
"Thank goodness he was on in the first half."
After Kam Williams hit a jumper, Bates-Diop connected inside to tie the score at 15. Trevor Thompson scored the next four points, all from the free throw line, before Bates-Diop really got going.
South Carolina State's Eric Eaves hit a layup to briefly stop the bleeding before the Ohio State forward hit consecutive threes, both off assists from Marc Loving, to extend the Buckeyes lead to 25-17 with 5:34 left.
A free throw from Jae'Sean Tate and a jumper from Thompson sandwiched a Gabriel McCray jumper before Bates-Diop hit back-to-back threes to end the run and allow the Buckeyes to take a 34-21 lead to the half.
"My teammates got me in the right spots and I was really open most of the time and I just knocked down shots, Bates-Diop said.
The 17 first-half points and five made threes in the opening 20 minutes were both career highs for Bates-Diop. He finished with a game-high 24 points and 10 rebounds.
South Carolina State began the second half on a 6-0 run to get back within single digits, as the Buckeyes started 1 of 8 after the break with two turnovers in the first six minutes of the second half.
"The second half tonight, I had to take a timeout and just let them know, Merry Christmas," Matta said facetiously of a meeting with the team during which he got particularly animated. "The great teams we've had here can get going early and we need to do a better job of that."
Again, it was Bates-Diop who got the Buckeyes going, this time finishing an inbounds alley-oop from JaQuan Lyle at the 13:56 mark. Another alley-oop, this one from A.J. Harris to Daniel Giddens followed and the Buckeyes pushed their lead back into double digits with Bates-Diop free throws with 11:34 remaining. The Ohio State lead would not fall under 10 the rest of the way and would swell to as many as 24.
Led by five from Bates-Diop, the Buckeyes connected on 8 of their 22 threes (36.4 percent), a far cry from their 3-22 performance in a win over Northern Illinois their last time out. Ohio State added nine blocks and assisted on 19 of 26 field goals, six helpers coming from Harris.
"Our goal is just to share the ball more," Harris said. "That's all we've been practicing, sharing the ball more and making the extra pass."
Williams joined Bates-Diop in double figures with 12 while Thompson had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Mickey Mitchell scored his first points in an Ohio State uniform with 2:03 left.
The victory gives the Buckeyes four straight wins as they enter Big Ten play Wednesday at home against Minnesota.