Buckeyes Breeze By Huskies

In its final non-conference game of the regular season, Ohio State cruised to a big victory against visiting Houston Baptist. William Buford led the way with a career-high 19 points as the Buckeyes now face only conference play for the rest of the season. Updated at 9:38 p.m. with quotes.

A loser of three of its last four games, Ohio State got exactly what it needed when it took to the court Jan. 9.

It got to face off against Houston Baptist, a team from the Great West conference that entered the game sporting a 1-15 record. The result was a decisive, 89-65 victory for the Buckeyes in their final non-conference game of the regular season.

"For the timing of this game coming off of two losses, I know this I feel a lot better tonight than I did the last couple game nights," OSU head coach Thad Matta said. "Now from here on in it's all Big Ten and we've got to take a look and say these are things that we did well and knowing the challenge is going to continue to escalate."

OSU (11-3, 1-2 Big Ten) scored 12 seconds into the contest and never trailed. The visiting Huskies (1-16) connected on their first field goal at the 17:36 mark of the first half on a three-pointer taken by guard Andrew Puzyk.

That made it 12-5 in favor of the home team, with nine of those points coming courtesy of William Buford. The freshman guard converted a three-point play on the team's first possession, then hit back-to-back treys from the same spot in the right corner to spark the early OSU lead.

"I always try to come out and have a good game," Buford said. "I started off hot and my teammates were able to get me the ball. They saw that I was hot."

From there, an overmatched Houston Baptist team essentially resorted to three-point shooting in an effort to keep the game close. The Huskies hit on 5 of their first 8 attempts from deep before missing their final six attempts of the first half.

OSU headed into the half with a 55-26 lead, and the second half was little more than a formality. The Huskies switched to a zone for the final 20 minutes, and the slower pace helped make the second half more competitive.

Houston Baptist actually outscored the Buckeyes by a 39-34 margin in the final stanza.

"When you're 1-16, you've had a lot of teams get hot on you," Huskies head coach Ron Cottrell said. In the team's previous four games, the Buckeyes were averaging 58.3 points per contest.

With the win, the Buckeyes finished the non-conference portion of their schedule at 10-1, with the lone blemish a 76-48 thumping administered by West Virginia on Dec. 27. The win was also the highest point total recorded by the Buckeyes this season, eclipsing the 83 points OSU put up against UNC Asheville on Dec. 22.

"We've just got to continue to be confident every game no matter who we're playing," junior guard Jeremie Simmons said. "We've just got to continue to play with confidence and poise. I think it's been lacking at times, but I think we can carry this over."

The game marked the first appearance by junior forward Nikola Kecman, who had been suspended for the first 12 games of the season after it was discovered that members of his club team in Serbia were being paid as professionals. He was active for the team's prior game – a 67-58 loss to Michigan State three days prior – but did not play.

Kecman was inserted into the lineup with 2:39 left in the first half, and he scored his first career points with 25 seconds left in the half. By that point, some of the fans in attendance were already heading to the exits. He finished with six points and four rebounds in 11 minutes of action.

"The first moment I was nervous because I knew that it's The Ohio State University and I had to represent the school," Kecman said. "I got relaxed as the time went on."

Buford led the way with a career-high 19 points earned due to 4 of 9 shooting from beyond the arc. Evan Turner added 15, while B.J. Mullens and Jeremie Simmons had 12 apiece.

Houston Baptist was led by Gordon Watt, who led all scorers with 28 points and was 6 of 9 from deep.

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