Ohio State leaned on the trio of JaQuan Lyle, Jae'Sean Tate and Kam Williams to defeat Western Carolina, 66-38, Monday night. The Buckeyes improved to 4-0 on the season with the win over the Southern Conference foe.
Tate, a junior forward, notched his second double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) of the year. Lyle led the Buckeyes with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting and Williams added 13. The junior guard made 3 of his 7 three-point tries.
The Buckeyes fell behind early in the game, 4-0, but methodically built a 14-point lead to go in front, 32-18, at halftime. Lyle brought the crowd to its feet with a thunderous one-handed dunk with slightly more than five minutes left until the break.
"I got up a little bit right there," the sophomore said of his slam. "I thought (the defender) was going to jump so I was ready for it but he didn't jump. He must've got the right read.
"Yesterday I didn't practice because I was sick - throwing up, vomiting. So, I lost a couple pounds. So, I think that's really what it was. I was feeling kind of light today so I think that's what it was."
Ohio State's lead would only grow in the second half. It swelled to 26 when Tate fought through a defender and tipped in a missed triple by Williams at the 12:06 mark to give OSU a 49-23 advantage. The final tally wound up being the Buckeyes' largest lead of the night.
The Catamounts did not shoot any free throws in the first half but made 4 of 9 second-half foul shots. Junior guard Haboubacar Mutombo was the lone player to score in double figures for Western Carolina with 11 points. Sophomore forward Marc Gosselin was second on the team with nine.
The Buckeyes had 11 steals in the win, marking the first time this season they've had 10 or more thefts in a game. Tate had the most with three. Western Carolina, meanwhile, committed 20 turnovers in which the Buckeyes converted into 20 points.
"I thought defensively, we were as sound as we've been in a long time," OSU head coach Thad Matta said. "Just in terms of sticking to every possession of what we were trying to do. I didn't know if they were going to hold the ball. We hadn't seen them do that yet. But I thought our positioning, our activity was really, really good."
As a team, Ohio State shot 23 of 55 from the field (41.8 percent) and went 5 of 17 (29.4 percent) from beyond the arc.
Williams started in place of injured junior forward Keita Bates-Diop. He sprained his ankle against Providence on Nov. 17. Matta said after the Western Carolina contest that Bates-Diop was out of his boot and is still day-to-day.
OSU will now host Jackson State on Wednesday at 7 p.m. (ET).