The Buckeyes (3-0) made it nearly impossible for visiting Samford to score Saturday afternoon, stifling the Bulldogs to the tune of just six points at the half on the way to a 59-22 win. The 13,412 fans in attendance watched Ohio State allow its fewest points in a game since a 34-22 win against Wabash in 1939.
"I thought defensively we had obviously a very good effort," OSU head coach Thad Matta said. "I thought that we sustained the defensive intensity that we needed to."
There was plenty for Matta to be happy about on the defensive end through twenty minutes. The Bulldogs (3-2), who entered having shot 50 percent or better in three of their first four games while running a slow-down, Princeton style of offense, rarely had an uncontested shot in the first half, and even the ones that seemed easy at first were altered in some way by Ohio State pressure.
"They're very deliberate in what they're going to do on the offensive end," Matta said. "You're usually going to defend for 28 seconds or more, and I think that's a pretty good test for your guys."
The Buckeyes passed with flying colors, piling up numbers that were simply stunning. Just two Bulldogs had points at intermission – forward Bryan Friday had four while guard Trey Montgomery had one less than his first name would suggest – and the team had made just 3 of 23 shots (13.0 percent) while committing 10 turnovers. Samford opened the game by going scoreless over 7:25 and then had a later stretch where it was stuck on four points for 8:40.
It took until 25:40 was played for Samford, which runs an offense similar to the one Northwestern will use in Big Ten play, to get into double figures. By that time the Bulldogs were trailing 36-10.
"They move a lot," guard Evan Turner said. "We just had to move and talk to each other. It was a great game for our defense to improve."
By the end of the game, Samford had made just 9 of 48 shots (18.8 percent) and 2 of 18 three-pointers (11.1 percent). They had 19 turnovers and had seven shots blocked.
Offensively Ohio State shot just 42.3 percent (22 for 52) itself and was a shoddy 4 for 17 (23.5 percent) from beyond the arc. The Buckeyes were sluggish early themselves, leading just 1-0 thanks to a free throw by David Lighty at the first media timeout.
"I thought we played a little bit lax offensively," Matta said. "We bobbled passes and we weren't sharp on post feeds."
Evan Turner led the Buckeyes with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting, while Dallas Lauderdale had 10. Turner added 13 rebounds for a double-double, the third of his career.
The Buckeyes extended the early to 7-0 thanks to the defense, as at 5-0 the Buckeyes' full-court press forced a turnover that B.J. Mullens converted into a fast-break layup after a pass from Anthony Crater.
After missing their first five shots, the Buckeyes made 6 of the next 7. By that time, the Buckeyes were leading 13-4, and they extended the lead to 24-4 by the time the Bulldogs scored another basket.
Samford's zone defense kept the Buckeye offense out of gear early, but OSU started to find some room inside as time went on. Mullens earned a slam dunk that made it 15-4 after Lighty's penetration opened up the defense.
Ohio State made it 18-4 thanks to a three-point play by Lauderdale that came as the big man ran the floor and converted a pass from Crater. As the defense sagged toward the hoop, Jon Diebler nailed a three from well behind the line the next time down to make it 21-4.
The score was 30-6 by halftime. The Bulldogs held the Buckeyes to just 11 points over the first 10 minutes of the second half, as Ohio State seemed to lose intensity early in the stanza
That changed when tempers began to flare near the midpoint of the second half, and Mullens was in the middle of it. On one inbounds pass, Gaby Bermudez hit Mullens with the ball. A few seconds later at the 10:09 point, Mullens came across the lane to commit a hard foul on Bermudez as he attempted a layup. Jim Griffin came over and gave Mullens a shove, and OSU's Jeremie Simmons pushed Griffin to the floor in response.
Both Simmons and Bermudez were whistled for technical fouls, which canceled each other out. Bermudez then made both free throws from the original Mullens foul to make the score 38-17.
The skirmish seemed to reignite Ohio State, which went on a 16-2 run, six points of which came on deep three-pointers by Simmons and six more on two dunks by Turner and another from Lauderdale on a Turner assist.
Ohio State is next in action Tuesday at Miami (Fla.) as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Buckeyes' game tips off at 7 p.m. on ESPN.