Buckeyes Rout Gardner-Webb, 87-58

Ohio State built a big first half lead and disposed of visiting Gardner-Webb, 87-58, on Wednesday. Senior center Terence Dials led the Buckeyes with a season-high 23 points and nine rebounds. The Buckeyes are now 9-0, their best start since 1990-91.

Ohio State remained undefeated with an 87-58 rout of visiting Gardner-Webb on Wednesday.

The No. 21 Buckeyes (9-0) were led by senior center Terence Dials who scored a season-high 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

Guards Je'Kel Foster and Ron Lewis added 14 points apiece for OSU.

For Gardner-Webb (5-4), center Simon Conn led the way with 14 points.

"Our guys came out and really competed with great intensity out of the gates," OSU coach Thad Matta said. "Our defense allowed us to get out and get some transition baskets. Terence down low did a good job and really got going."

The first half was all Ohio State. Led by Foster, the Buckeyes held a 9-6 lead at the first media timeout (15:50). A Dials basket at the 14:20 mark gave OSU a 14-8 lead, and a Foster 3-pointer pushed the advantage to 17-8 at the 13:51 mark.

Ohio State slowly poured it on from there. A Dials turnaround gave the Buckeyes a 30-12 lead at the 7:03 mark. Foster then found Lewis for a breakaway dunk at the 6:40 mark for a 32-12 OSU lead.

A Matt Sylvester free throw gave OSU its largest lead of the first half, 33-12, with 6:24 remaining.

Conn, Gardner-Webb's leading scorer, had been held scoreless up to that point. The 6-9 senior from Australia entered play averaging 16 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.

But Conn began to make his presence felt. He scored 10 of the next 13 points for the Bulldogs and Gardner-Webb was able to cut OSU's lead to 38-25 with 2:40 remaining in the first half.

But that was as close as the Bulldogs could get. Two free throws from Lewis, as well as a driving lay-up from Sylvester Mayes, gave Ohio State a 42-25 lead at halftime.

The Buckeyes began the second half with a 9-2 run and took a commanding 51-27 lead. And there was no letting up for the home team on this night.

A Foster 3-pointer, followed by a quick turnaround basket from Dials, followed by a J.J. Sullinger lay-up gave OSU a 61-33 lead with 14:18 remaining in the second half.

The Bulldogs were able to cut the deficit to as little as 23 (62-39) but Ohio State continued to impose its will.

A basket from Dials, a 3-pointer from point guard Jamar Butler and two free throws from Foster gave OSU a 79-46 lead with 4:15 left in the second half.

A driving basket from Mayes gave the Buckeyes their largest lead of the game, 83-48, at the 3:18 mark.

The Buckeyes cruised from there to preserve their best start to a season since 1990-91 (when OSU began 17-0).

"When you take care of the basketball like we did tonight with 19 assists and five turnovers, I think that's something we can really continue to build on," Matta said.

Butler and Mayes finished with nine points each for the Buckeyes. Sullinger and Sylvester had five each, and Ivan Harris and Matt Terwilliger added four apiece. The 6-8 Terwilliger threw down a putback dunk for the second time this season.

Gardner-Webb is a solid team that defeated Minnesota and narrowly lost to North Carolina. But the Bulldogs were no match for the Buckeyes on this night.

Dials, who seems to be hitting his stride just before the Big Ten season begins, was 8 of 13 from the floor.

"That was huge," Matta said. "Our guys did a great job of getting him the basketball and he made some nice moves down there. As we've said all along, when Terence plays well, it obviously makes us a better basketball team."

Dials carved out space in the lane all evening and was aggressive once he received the ball.

"I had space and tried to get deep into the paint," he said. "Once I get two feet in the paint I really don't have to do much but just turn and shoot.

"I didn't really do anything special. I just took what the defense gave me."

Foster set a career-high with six steals. He entered play averaging a Big Ten best 2.11 steals per game.

"We knew that Gardner-Webb was a good team and we knew that we had to come out with great defensive intensity," Foster said.

Ohio State will get back in action Dec. 31 at home against LSU (1 p.m.).

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