On an afternoon when the mercury outside Value City Arena soared to a record-breaking 68 degrees, the No. 15 Buckeyes went ice-cold with season-low shooting percentages and suffered a 76-48 blowout loss to unranked West Virginia in front of a sellout crowd of 19,049.
OSU missed 40 of their 58 shots from the field, finishing with a dismal 31.0 percent. Included in that performance was a 2-for-18 showing (11.1 percent) behind the three-point arc. Adding insult to injury: The Buckeyes made only 50.0 percent (10 of 20) at the free-throw line. All three percentages represented season-lows for the team.
Meanwhile, the Mountaineers (10-2) shook off a chilly first half of their own to burn the nets at a 56.3-percent clip (18 for 33) in the second half, outscoring Ohio State by a 41-20 margin after the break. For the game, West Virginia made 31 of 64 attempts for 48.4 percent.
The loss was the first for the Buckeyes in 10 games this season and snapped a 14-game winning streak that dated back to the team's run to last year's NIT championship. The win streak had been the longest in the nation.
"We weren't very good – it's just that simple," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "West Virginia had a lot to do with it. We couldn't capitalize on the momentum and really let our guard down on defense. After we went up early in the first, they got their big run and that was it for us.
"In the second, we never could overcome their early run. We just didn't have the bite in us today. We need to learn how to fight back all the time."
OSU (9-1) started well enough and even enjoyed an 8-3 lead as the Mountaineers had trouble getting their offense untracked. But West Virginia scraped its way back into things and wrested away the lead as the game remained tight in the early going.
Ohio State freshman center B.J. Mullens made a pair of free throws at the 7:00 mark of the first half to make it 21-20 in favor of West Virginia and then the roof seemed to cave in on the Buckeyes. The Mountaineers scored 14 of the first half's final 22 points for a 35-28 lead at intermission, and then really poured it on in the second half.
Junior guard Jeremie Simmons made a steal and scored on a breakaway layup to give OSU some hope, getting the Buckeyes within seven points of WVU at 45-38 with 14:35 remaining. But the Mountaineers finished the game with a trio of scoring spurts – runs of nine, eight and 10 straight points to close things out.
"This is pretty much what we've been doing all year," West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins said. "Our guys have really bought into the system and really attacked the rim today. There was going to be a lot of contact today and we did a good job of scoring under a lot of pressure. We didn't want Ohio State to have structure on the defensive end and I thought we did a good job of spreading them out by not letting their big guys stay underneath the basket."
Senior guard Alex Ruoff wound up with a game-high 17 points for West Virginia while teammates Da'Sean Butler, Darryl Bryant and Devin Ebanks also scored in double figures with 16, 11 and 10 points, respectively. Butler did most of his damage early, tallying 14 of his points in the first 20 minutes.
For the Buckeyes, Simmons and freshman guard William Buford each tallied 11 points while sophomore Evan Turner added 10 points and 11 rebounds, good for his third double-double of the young season. Simmons' total established a new career high.
Unfortunately, most of the OSU shooters seemed to be suffering from frostbite on their shooting hands. Turner made only 4 of 17 shots from the floor for 23.5 percent while fellow sophomore Jon Diebler struggled with a 2-for-10 performance that included only 1 make in 7 tries from three-point territory.
"I can't say much," Turner said. "We were bad on offense and defense and didn't play up to our abilities. West Virginia took advantage of all of our mistakes. I didn't do anything different. My shots just didn't fall. It happens to all of us."
Diebler, who entered the game averaging 10.4 points, finished with only five against the Mountaineers. Mullens, who had 19 points and eight rebounds in a breakout performance Dec. 22 against UNC-Asheville, was limited to only four points and three rebounds against West Virginia.
The Buckeyes won't have long to regroup. They begin Big Ten play Dec. 31 hosting Iowa at Value City Arena. The Hawkeyes were 9-3 heading into a Dec. 27 night game against 4-7 Western Illinois.
Tipoff time for the New Year's Eve contest between OSU and Iowa is scheduled for 4 p.m. Eastern.
** Ohio State and West Virginia had not met since Nov. 28, 1995, in Columbus. That was a 77-68 victory for OSU that snapped a five-game Mountaineers win streak. The all-time series is now at 9-6 in favor of the Buckeyes.
** Ohio State's record vs. Big East Conference opponents is now 70-47 all-time. The Buckeyes are 1-1 against the Big East this season, including a 67-62 win over Notre Dame.
** The Buckeyes wore their home gray uniforms for the first time this season.
** Buford got his second starting assignment of the season, going in place of junior David Lighty, who is sidelined for at least six weeks with a broken bone in his left foot.
** The contest was the first sellout of the season for the Buckeyes as an announced 19,049 attended the game. The last time Ohio State sold out a game at VCA was March 26, 2008, when the team defeated Dayton, 74-63, in the NIT quarterfinals.
** The loss snapped a 12-game home win streak for the Buckeyes. The streak was the second-longest for Ohio State under Matta – his 2006-07 team won 29 consecutive home games.
** The Buckeyes' loss to West Virginia was their first to an unranked nonconference opponent since a 76-67 setback to South Alabama on Dec. 16, 1980, a span of 42 games.
** The win was the first in three tries for Huggins against Ohio State. The Ohio native and former OSU assistant coach lost to the Buckeyes in 1985 and 1989 when he was head coach at Akron. Huggins never played against Ohio State during his 16-year tenure at Cincinnati from 1990-2005.