Ohio State's early season woes continued Wednesday night as the Buckeyes ran headlong into 13th-ranked Georgia Tech in the home opener, which was also one of nine games in the fifth annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Georgia Tech held OSU to just 32.7 percent shooting in dealing the Buckeyes a 73-53 defeat before 13,859 at Value City Arena. The win clinched a victory for the ACC in the Challenge.
It is also the most lopsided loss in the five-plus year history of Value City Arena, eclipsing a 72-58 loss against Michigan State last March 8. It was OSU‘s worst home loss since a 107-75 drubbing at the hands of Purdue on Feb. 7, 1998, which was Jim O‘Brien‘s first year as the head coach.
O'Brien held a closed door meeting with the team for 40 minutes following the game before heading to the postgame interview room.
"I'd like to apologize to everyone interested in following the program for our performance. The thing that is most embarrassing to me is where we are right now," O'Brien said. "If I was sitting up in the stands the very first question I would ask is `What are those guys doing in practice every day?' "
When asked if he felt better after the meeting, O'Brien said, "I don't feel good about it all. At this point, it's not about words. A couple guys said some stuff, but it's not about talk. We have to go out and get after it. We've got to go do it. Unless I start to see it … It's across the board. It's me included. I'm not going to point fingers."
Center Velimir Radinovic and backup guard Ricardo Billings led OSU (2-3) with 12 points, while J.J. Sullinger added 10 points. Particularly troubling was the play of shooting guard Tony Stockman, who entered as OSU's leading scorer at 18 points per game. He was 1 of 11 from the field -- including 0 for 6 on three-pointers -- and finished with seven points.
"More than anything, I just don't understand why we weren't excited about this game tonight," O'Brien said.
Georgia Tech improved to 6-0 and continued the momentum it built by winning the Preseason NIT last week. The Yellow Jackets came in with an average margin of victory of 22 points and did not disappoint. B.J. Elder led Tech with 18 points, while Marvin Lewis had 15 and Jarrett Jack had 14.
OSU suffered its third double-digit loss on the young season. The Buckeyes were just 16 of 49 from the field -- including 2 of 14 from behind the three-point arc (14.3 percent) -- and committed 20 turnovers.
"We are not doing the things we need to do," Sullinger said. "We are not even remotely close to where we need to be. We have got to get better."
Sullinger discussed the postgame scene.
"He talked about what we need to do to be a better team," Sullinger said. "We have to pick up the pieces and it starts with us. He's telling us what we need to do and we're not doing it. We're not doing the things good teams need to do to win."
Georgia Tech broke open a close game early by going on a 13-0 run to take a 23-8 lead with 9:07 left in the first half. Elder and Lewis each hit three-point shots during that run.
OSU rallied to trim the gap to 27-18 after Sullinger hit a spinning, fade away jumper on the baseline. But Tech surged ahead at the end of the half as Jarrett Jack buried a three-pointer from the top of the key. Then, Isma'il Muhammad made an emphatic two-handed jam to put the Yellow Jackets up 34-20. But Sullinger hit a three-pointer just before the buzzer to cut the lead to 34-23 at the half.
The Buckeyes got as close as eight when Stockman made three free throws to trim the gap to 44-36 with 13:16 left. OSU then had the ball and a chance to cut the lead to six or closer. But Matt Sylvester missed a running shot in the lane. At the other end, Muhammad had a nasty two-handed jam and was fouled by Billings. He made the free throw, then, 25 seconds later, rebounded a teammate's miss to put Tech back up 49-36 with 12:11 left.
"We were down eight and had the ball out of bounds," O'Brien said. "We had a shot from point blank. If we make it we're down six. But they leak out and get a dunk and get fouled. Before we know it we were down 13."
OSU then whittled the lead to 51-40 on a Radinovic jam with 11:12 left. But Elder and Clarence Moore hit back to back three-pointers to put the Yellow Jackets up 57-40 with 10:38 left in the game.
Tech got the lead out as high as 22 in the final minute.
OSU hosts Virginia Tech at 2 p.m. Saturday at Nationwide Arena as a preview for the NCAA Tournament games that will be played there in March.