Buckeyes Prevail In Sluggish Contest

Was it pretty? No. Did Ohio State have the level of intensity head coach Thad Matta wanted to see? No. Did the Buckeyes get out-rebounded by visiting Coppin State? Yes. But all that mattered to the Buckeyes in the immediate aftermath of the game was the fact that they had won, plain and simple.

The tones of the St. Mary's, Ohio, pep band wafted across the arena as the two teams came out for warmups. Although the high school ensemble filling in for the usual Ohio State pep band proved competent musically, their tempo was noticeably slower than that of their collegiate counterparts.

On the court, the same could be said for home team. Playing their first game in nine days, the Buckeyes failed to show any signs of significant offensive improvement from the extra practice time and instead often looked lost while facing visiting Coppin State's 2-1-2 zone, trudging their way to a 47-39 victory.

"I was surprised (it was so close), but they did a great job," said sophomore guard P.J. Hill, who played a career-high 18 minutes in the victory. "We fought back and we played hard. We knew we were going to win, but it was a close one."

For the contest, the visiting Eagles handily out-rebounded the Buckeyes (5-3) to the tune of a 32-22 total that helped CSU put up 11 second-chance points. In contrast, OSU had zero second-chance points on just six offensive rebounds – all in spite of the fact that the Eagles (3-7) had no player see action who was taller than 6-7.

OSU senior forward Othello Hunter had a team-high five rebounds, while Hill and senior Matt Terwilliger added four apiece. Freshman center Kosta Koufos, who stands 7-0, did not have a rebound.

"I can't even believe that," Mitchell said. "I think that's lies. We have not been rebounding the basketball well."

The Eagles controlled the clock in the second half, milking the shot clock down to around 10 seconds before attacking the basket. That reluctance to force shots, combined with their own zone defense at the other end of the court, allowed CSU to dictate the tempo.

All that aside, it was not enough to get the victory, which seemed to be the only thing the Buckeyes were dead-set on achieving. The 47 points marks the lowest point total posted by a winning OSU team since the 1981-82 season, when the Buckeyes defeated Georgetown by a 47-46 score on Nov. 29 as part of the Great Alaska Shootout.

"We came out with a win and to hold a team like that to 39 points, we were happy with that," senior guard Jamar Butler said. "We're just happy to get the win."

Conversely, CSU's 38 points marked the lowest scored against the Buckeyes in the shot-clock era.

Butler himself tied freshman guard Evan Turner with a team-high 13 points on 4 of 8 shooting – all three pointers. His final trey came with 10:22 remaining in the game and put the Buckeyes back on top, 34-33.

Butler's shot would start a run that opened up their biggest lead of the game with 3:02 remaining when a trey from Turner made it 44-37 Buckeyes, and from there the final outcome appeared to be a formality.

"I think that Coppin limiting the possessions took us a little bit out of the flow of what we were doing, which is something we've got to get better at," OSU head coach Thad Matta said. "We just didn't have the flow offensively."

Both Butler and Matta said the Buckeyes had seen the Eagles play their zone defense while watching film, but said the tempo was a bit different this time out. CSU head coach Ron Mitchell said he typically gives his team a different set of directions when playing their zone defense.

"We played like we were chasing somebody that stole my wallet (on tape)," he said.

Seeking to spark his team, head coach Thad Matta juggled his lineup for the first time all season. Turner earned his first collegiate start in place of classmate Jon Diebler, while Hill and Butler saw significant playing time together. In addition, Diebler and Turner saw playing time on the court together.

Turner said he learned he would be starting his first collegiate game about three minutes before the team began warming up when associate coach John Groce told him so. From there, the nerves kicked in early – although he scored six of the team's first eight points on two treys.

The Eagles were led by senior guard Tywain McKee, who had 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting.

Once again, the Buckeyes endured a stretch where their offense looked stagnant at best. Holding a 15-11 lead at the 12:08 mark of the first half, OSU would need nearly eight minutes to score again. When Koufos hit a deep jumper to give the Buckeyes the lead back at 17-16 with 4:27 remaining in the half, it ended a stretch that saw them miss five shots from the floor and turn the ball over six times.

The cold streak marked the third consecutive game in which the Buckeyes have struggled to score for an extended period of time and was the fourth time in their last five games. In the first half, the Buckeyes turned the ball over 10 times.


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