Balanced Buckeyes Bounce Norfolk State

Ohio State improved to 5-0 on the season with a 92-59 win over Norfolk State. Six OSU players reached double figures in the win, including guard Jamar Butler who had 10 points and seven assists. Click this free link for more on the game.

Ohio State took the floor at Value City Arena Monday night as a ranked team for the first time in over three years.

And it was a team effort that lifted the Buckeyes, ranked 25th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, to a 92-59 win over Norfolk State before a crowd of 12,406 at VCA.

Ohio State (5-0) placed six players in double figures, led by J.J. Sullinger who had 15 points. Terence Dials added 13 points and eight rebounds, while Ron Lewis had 12 points, Je'Kel Foster scored 11 points and Ivan Harris and Jamar Butler each had 10 points. Butler also tallied seven assists.

"I like that," said OSU coach Thad Matta. "Hopefully that's something that we will continue to grow on. I thought we would have success tonight scoring the basketball. That helps them with their confidence."

OSU made a season-high 14 three-point shots on 32 attempts (43.8 percent). That follows the 11 treys made in Saturday's 81-74 win at St. Joseph's.

"The threes we got were good shots," said Sullinger, who made 2 of his 3 shots from behind the arc. "They were not forced. They were off penetration."

Calvin Brown led Norfolk State (2-5) with 16 points, while Tony Murphy tallied 12 points.

The Spartans trailed OSU 23-20 midway through the first half, using full-court pressure that had confounded the Buckeyes in the tight win at St. Joe's. But the Buckeyes responded with some pressure of their own to break open the game and open a 15-point lead at the half.

"That is something we have been working on," Sullinger revealed. "Coach told us to prepare for it. This is the first time he has actually told us to use it."

Matta figured it was as good a time as any to break out the press.

"I wanted to see how it looked," he said. "We hadn't used it yet. I felt like if we applied it right we could turn them over some. That is something we will continue to build on."

Dials had 11 points and six rebounds in the first half as the Buckeyes built a 37-22 lead at the intermission.

The Buckeyes enjoyed an early 8-2 lead after Foster hit a three with 16:46 left in the first half. Butler hit a three during a stretch that pushed the advantage to 16-8 with 10:55 left in the half.

The lead ballooned to 23-14 when Sylvester Mayes, who finished with nine points, canned a three off an inside-out pass by Dials with 7:30 left in the half. But Norfolk State scored six unanswered points to cut the lead to 23-20 with 5:01 left in the half.

All six of those points came off OSU defensive breakdowns.

"We were getting beaten off dribble penetration," Matta said. "We weren't as active as we needed to be off the ball. Hopefully, we will address that and get better at that."

Ohio State answered by scoring 14 straight points to take control of the game. Dials got it started with a hook shot. Sullinger then hit a three off a feed from Butler in transition. Foster made a pair of free throws with 2:59 left.

The highlight of the half may have been Sullinger's baseline drive and reverse layup that made it 33-20 with 2:04 left. Butler followed with a free throw, Lewis made two and Dials made one with 42.6 seconds left for a 37-20 lead. NSU's Calvin Brown made a pair of free throws with 1.6 seconds left to account for the 15-point margin.

"We started getting some stops together," Foster said. "Coach was getting on us. We got some good offensive plays and went on from there."

Butler, Sullinger and Foster each made three-pointers early in the second half as OSU built a 50-28 lead with 17:33 left in the game.

The lead got out to 25 as Mayes made a three-pointer with 9:56 left then made 1 of 2 free throws with 9:36 left for a 65-40 bulge.

OSU expanded the lead late. Brayden Bell made a three-pointer for a 31-point lead at 85-54 with 3:27 left.

Lewis then had a layup off a Mayes steal and Harris canned a three-pointer for a 90-54 lead with 2:33 left.

Also Notable

* Bell, Matt Sylvester and Matt Terwilliger each added four points for the Buckeyes.

* OSU was playing as a ranked team for the first time since it ended the 2002 season at No. 14 in the AP poll. It was OSU's first home appearance as a home team since it entered a Feb. 26, 2002, game against Michigan State as the No. 18 team. OSU had played 51 home games since then.

"I think it's good," Matta said of OSU's ranking in the coaches poll. "But I want to be there at the end. That's what we're striving for."

* OSU is now 311-100 all-time playing as a member of the AP top 25.

* The Buckeyes are 5-0 for the first time since 2001-02, when OSU opened up 6-0.

* OSU is now 95-22 all-time in VCA, including 4-0 this year.

* OSU is now 25-12 under Matta, including a record of 19-2 at home.

* The Buckeyes reached the 90-point plateau for the first time since a 113-101 double overtime loss at LSU last January. It was OSU's first 90-point game in regulation since a 94-73 win over Tennessee State on Dec. 28, 2002.

* The 33-point win was OSU's largest margin of victory since an 88-41 win over Santa Clara on Dec. 12, 2001.

* OSU hosts Belmont Wednesday at 8 p.m. (ESPN-Plus, WBNS-TV in Columbus). The Buckeyes visit Iowa State Saturday at 8 p.m. (ESPN). That game will close a stretch of four games in eight days for the Buckeyes.

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