Senior guard Je'Kel Foster led the way for the Buckeyes (4-0) with a career-high 24 points and 10 rebounds.
It was a sizzling shooting performance from Ohio State, a team that appears to be headed for a top 25 ranking. The Buckeyes shot 52 percent from the floor (23 of 44) and 55 percent from 3-point range (11 of 20).
The Hawks (4-2) were paced by Abdulai Jalloh's career-high 30 points. He led St. Joe's on a second-half surge – at one point the Hawks cut OSU's lead to four points – but the Buckeyes held tough and passed their first road test of the season.
"Honestly, I think St. Joe's is a very good team and for us to come in and get that first road win is very important for us because hopefully we continue to build and get better," said OSU coach Thad Matta on WBNS radio. "After the Virginia Tech game, I talked to the guys, I challenged them and said, ‘We have to get better before we play St. Joe's.' I really believe – we practiced 11, 12 times in that span and we only had one subpar practice and that's a credit to who they are."
Much like the Virginia Tech game (a 69-56 OSU victory on Nov. 28) Ohio State build a big lead, then had to hang on in the second half. But the Virginia Tech game was in the friendly confines of Value City Arena in Columbus.
"When you go on the road, it's funny, when the game ends you say, ‘We just came to get the win, let's get out of here,'" Matta said. "But then you start replaying the game and you say, ‘Man, we have a long way to go.'"
Ohio State opened the game with a 6-0 lead on 3-pointers from Foster and J.J. Sullinger. The Buckeyes extended their lead to 16-6 on a trey from Matt Sylvester, followed by a steal and dunk from Sylvester at the 14:49 mark.
Sylvester Mayes gave OSU a 22-10 advantage on back-to-back 3-pointers, the last coming at the 11:52 mark of the half.
Jamar Butler then drained a triple at the 10:22 mark, giving the Buckeyes seven in as many attempts, as well as a 25-10 lead.
Ohio State led 37-23 at halftime, with Foster leading the way with 12 points.
The second half began on a positive note for the Buckeyes, with a Foster 3-pointer giving OSU its largest lead of the game at 43-25 at the 17:55 mark.
But led by the hot shooting of Jalloh – a sophomore guard who was averaging 12.8 points entering play – the Hawks began to chip away at the Buckeyes' margin.
A Dwayne Lee 3-pointer at the 9:15 mark of the second half made the score 51-46, igniting the St. Joseph's faithful at the 8,722-seat Palestra, an 80-year-old museum of college basketball.
Ohio State quickly responded with a 7-0 run to regain control of the game. Ron Lewis dropped in a 3-pointer from the corner for his first points of the afternoon. It was followed by a three-point play from Sullinger on a rebound and putback. Lewis then drained a free throw for the final points of the run and a 58-46 OSU lead with 7:55 remaining in the game.
At the 4:30 mark, the suddenly hot Lewis gave the Buckeyes a commanding 63-48 lead with a smooth drive to the basket.
Following a bucket from Jalloh, Foster caught a long pass from Sylvester on an inbounds pass and dunked OSU to a 65-50 lead with 4:01 left.
But the Hawks would not go away. Jalloh and Lee were able to lead a 16-5 run, which cut OSU's lead to 70-66 at the 1:03 mark.
But the Buckeyes once again scored on a deep inbounds pass. This time it was Sylvester to Lewis, who threw down a dunk, was fouled, and converted the three-point play for a 73-65 lead with 1:00 showing on the clock.
From there, the Buckeyes were able to knock down their free throws and they headed out of Philadelphia with a key win. A victory that will look good on their resume come Selection Sunday.
St. Joseph's leading scorer, senior guard Chet Stachitas, fouled out and finished with nine points. He entered play averaging 19.8 points.
Lee scored 20, joining Jalloh as the only Hawks in double figures.
Lewis finished with 14 points for Ohio State, all in the second half.
Also for OSU, Butler scored 13 points, and Sullinger added 11 points and eight rebounds.
Senior center Terence Dials was held to five points and faced double-teams nearly every time he touched the ball. He entered play as OSU's leading scorer at 15.3 per game.
"I think Je'Kel getting 24 points and 10 rebounds was big," Matta said. "And even Terence Dials. He only takes three shots, but the defense he played… the one time he didn't do what he was supposed to do they got us on a high-low. But other than that, he was tremendous in that regard."
There is plenty for Matta and his staff to work on in practice. The coach wasn't happy with the way his team handled the ball.
"I've been harping on the guys, ‘We're shooting 52 percent, why would we turn the ball over?' We had 21 turnovers today," Matta said.
It's a quick turnaround for the Buckeyes. They get back in action at home Monday against Norfolk State at 8 p.m.