The Miami (Fla.) senior guard was tossed from the game with 10:12 remaining in the first half after swiping at OSU freshman guard Anthony Crater, but the Buckeyes (4-0) used a second-half offensive explosion to pull out a 73-68 victory against the Hurricanes (4-2) as part of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Facing a far more experienced Hurricanes team, the young OSU squad came to life in the final 20 minutes under the bright lights of its first prime-time exposure. Miami started two seniors and three juniors, while the Buckeyes had two juniors and three sophomores. OSU does not have a senior on its roster.
But it was the visiting team that made the plays it needed to down the stretch. Just getting to that point took a significant comeback.
Facing a 36-22 halftime deficit, the Buckeyes came out firing in the second half. After trading baskets, OSU went on a 13-0 run to pull within a point for the first time since the first minute of the game. The Hurricanes would push the lead back to eight points, but OSU would knot the game at 54 apiece with 7:28 remaining on a basket by sophomore guard Evan Turner.
After a Miami miss from deep, OSU's Jeremie Simmons connected on a three-pointer to make it 57-54 Buckeyes with 6:53 remaining, and they would not trail again.
"I'm very proud of our guys," OSU head coach Thad Matta told the Ohio State Men's Basketball Radio Network. "We were playing as bad as we could play in the first 20 minutes. We couldn't make a shot. To our guys' credit as we went in we said, ‘Relax, shots can fall for us.' We were missing so much it was transition going the other way and we couldn't get it stopped. The guys did a tremendous job of keeping their composure and we executed in the second half."
With the win, OSU earned its first road victory against a ranked opponent since a Feb. 22, 2006 victory against Michigan State by a 79-68 margin. It also marked their third win as part of the annual showdown between the conferences.
The Buckeyes shot just 27 percent from the field and 18 percent from beyond the arc in the first half, but they hit on 54 percent of their second-half shots and 66 percent of their treys.
Those statistics reflected the fact that the Buckeyes turned on the defense in the second half, leading to easy looks on offense. The primary beneficiary of the situation was Turner, who finished 19 points – all in the second half. Classmate Jon Diebler led the way with 20 points – 14 in the second half.
Diebler was 6 of 12 from beyond the arc and helped fuel the second-half comeback. The Buckeyes had 19 points off of 18 Miami turnovers. In the second half, OSU won the turnover margin by a 10-1 total.
"We made more shots, which alleviated the transition the other way and we were able to get in our press," Matta said. "We were a little more aware of where guys were. We got them contained and got the shot clock into it."
The Hurricanes' experience edge showed early, as Miami opened up an 11-2 lead thanks to a 9-0 run. The Hurricanes then opened the door for an OSU comeback with McClinton's incident.
Leading 16-7 near the midway point of the first half, the senior guard caught the ball on the right wing near the Buckeye bench. With OSU's freshman point guard applying pressure defense, McClinton swiped at Crater with his right hand and connected with his face. The blow came after Crater appeared to make contact with McClinton's face while trying to deflect a pass.
As Crater clutched his face and turned from the play, McClinton's teammates found him with the ball and he promptly buried the wide-open three-point attempt to put his team ahead 19-7. After the game officials took a look at the replay, they decided to eject McClinton from the contest.
He headed to the locker room with 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc. His 12 points accounted for one-third of Miami's 36 first-half points, as the Hurricanes headed into the half with a 36-22 lead.
The incident gave the Buckeyes a short burst of momentum. Crater hit both of his ensuing free-throws, and sophomore guard Jon Diebler canned a trey on the next possession to complete a five-point swing that made it 29-12 Hurricanes with 10:05 remaining.
From there, Miami would score the next three baskets to push the lead back to 13 points. It was not until the second half that the Buckeyes would make it a game.
"To our guys' credit, they came back and kept fighting," Matta said. "That's what you've got to do in college basketball on the road."
Diebler and junior forward David Lighty each played the entire game. Lighty had 11 points and six boards. Freshman center B.J. Mullens saw his most extensive playing time of his young career as sophomore starter Dallas Lauderdale battled through foul trouble for much of the game, and Mullens responded with five points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Miami was led by senior guard Lance Hurdle, who finished with 14 points.