The Buckeyes shrugged off a sluggish first 10 minutes and went on to take a 102-77 win over Mercer. OSU announced a paid crowd of 11,931, but there were no more than 5,000 in the house at Value City Arena as central Ohio was hit with a winter storm.
"This game went very similar to how we expected," said Matta, whose team improved to 9-2. "I said all along that Mercer has got a very good basketball team. We got off to a good start, but you have to give Mercer credit. They fought back and we lost our intensity defensively."
Matta was not pleased with OSU's 11 turnovers in the win over Morehead. The Buckeyes committed 18 turnovers in the win over Mercer, but did just enough to warrant a three-day respite and no practice again until after Christmas day.
"That went down to the wire," Matta said.
OSU center Terence Dials delivered a career performance, while guards Tony Stockman and J.J. Sullinger each flirted with notching the school's first-ever triple-double before each fell just short.
Dials had a career-high 29 points and 13 rebounds as he hit 12 of 15 shots from the floor and 5 of 7 at the foul line.
"I'm just trying to stay aggressive going to the basket," Dials said. "My teammates are doing a good job getting me the ball where I don't have to make too many moves. I've got more in me than I've shown."
Stockman had 10 points, nine rebounds and nine assists before coming out of the game for good with 5:43 left.
"I think about one time I didn't box out and their guy got the rebound," Stockman said. "And I got on Ivan (Harris) for missing a layup (after a feed). But that's how it goes, I guess."
"He wasn't too far from a quadruple double," Matta joked, referring to Stockman's team-high six turnovers.
Sullinger also had one of his best games to date with 16 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
"I think we're just trying to carry over from the practice into the games," Sullinger said. "We've been working hard on boxing out and rebounding. The coaches have been staying in our ears about going and getting it."
Ivan Harris added 13 points and Je'Kel Foster scored 11 for OSU, which shot a blistering 58 percent (40 of 69) from the floor including 61.1 percent (22 of 36) in the second half.
The Buckeyes also reached the 100-point mark for the first time ever at Value City Arena, their home since November 1998.
Jacob Skogen led Mercer (5-2) with 19 points, while Will Emerson tallied 15.
OSU got off to a 7-0 lead to open the game as Stockman hit a three, Harris tallied on a hook and Sullinger slammed home an alley oop pass from Stockman. Sullinger made a driving jumper in the lane to put the Buckeyes up 16-8 with 15:40 left in the first half.
Mercer then went on a 16-3 tear to grab a 24-19 lead with 10:17 left in the half. Wesley Duke scored four points in the run, which was capped by Andrew Walker's three-point goal.
OSU used three-pointers by Foster and Stockman to take a 29-26 lead with 8:04 left, but Andrew Brown's trey with 7:21 left knotted the game at 29-29.
Ohio State then hit the gas pedal and closed the half on a 17-6 run. Dials had 11 of those points during that run that allowed the Buckeyes to go up 46-35 at the half.
OSU then opened the second half on a 16-4 run, keyed by six more points from Dials and a three-point play by Sullinger to go up 62-39 with 15:44 left.
Mercer again put together a flurry, going on an 11-2 run keyed by a pair of three-pointers by Ross Alacqua to cut the OSU lead to 79-66 with 8:20 left.
But the Buckeyes again sped away. Foster answered Mercer's charge with a three-pointer with 6:05 left. A trey by Matt Sylvester gave OSU its biggest lead at 97-70 with 3:04 left. The Buckeyes led by 27 twice after that. Jermyl Jackson-Wilson helped OSU hit the century mark with two free throws with 2:09 left to make it 100-73.
* OSU has led at halftime in every game this season.
* Because of the sparse crowd, fans who purchased seats in the Terrace level (upper) at VCA were invited to move down.
* The 100-point output was OSU's first since a 102-72 win over George Mason on Dec. 14, 1996, at St. John Arena.
* Regarding Dials, his 12 field goals were a career high. This was his sixth career 20-point game and his second double-double of the season and fifth of his career.
Over OSU's four-game winning streak, Dials has averaged 22.8 points and 9.8 rebounds. He has made 35 of 54 shots from the floor (64.8 percent).
"I know I sound like a broken record, but Terence is continuing to play hard every day in practice," Matta said. "He was diving on the floor for a loose ball in front of our bench. He was taking a charge. He's doing all of those things. His mind-set has changed. He's saying, `I've got more in me, maybe, than I've shown."
* Matta had considered having an evening practice on Christmas. But instead the team will practice twice on Dec. 26 in preparation for next Tuesday's game with New Hampshire.
"We've been on an incredible pace since Sept. 22," Matta said. "It's good for them to get some time with their families and to have some time away from here. We have two games to lead into the Big Ten and then it will be a sprint until March."