The visitors wasted little time in building a lead of as many as 14 points, and still held a 12-point edge when the teams went to the locker room for the intermission.
But West Virginia (15-3) came out of the blocks for the final 20 minutes just as quickly as its opposition had after the opening tip-off -- perhaps as the result of some extra halftime motivation from head coach Bob Huggins.
"You go in and tell them what you want them to do," said Huggins of his locker room approach. "At times, you challenge them. We did not attack them in the first half. We were not the aggressor -- particularly at the offensive end."
"We challenged all of them at halftime to go out and do what we do."
Behind an offense that attacked the interior of OSU's 1-3-1 zone with greater tenacity than it had in the early portions of the game and a defense that began to find a way to slow down the production of Evan Turner, the Mountaineers went on a 10-0 run in the first 2:41 of the second half.
From there, the two teams engaged in a back-and-forth scoring war, with Ohio State briefly forging the lead back to as many as six points.
But once Da'Sean Butler hit his second 3-pointer of the period, giving his team its first lead of the contest at 57-54, the Buckeyes would never manage to reclaim the advantage.
The senior forward, who had been in a shooting slump in recent weeks, managed to score 16 of his 21 points in the second half.
Three of those came on his third and final trifecta of the game, a step-back jumper with the shot clock winding down that pushed a tenuous one point lead out to four at 62-58 with 6:27 to go. The visitors would never again get within fewer than three points of WVU.
"He's hit a lot of big shots in his career," said Huggins, when asked about Butler's second half performance. "He just hadn't hit any lately. We expect Da' to do well."
While the offensive outburst of Butler may make most of the headlines, it was a much better defensive performance against Turner that likely turned the tide.
West Virginia limited the star guard to only five points in the second half, after he had tallied 13 in the first 20 minutes.
According to Huggins, that was a result of solid play from forward Devin Ebanks.
|This game recap presented by The Book Exchange|
"We put Devin on (Turner) and told him to guard him," said the third-year WVU coach. "Devin's so long he's hard to make shots over. We just wanted to keep him in front of us. He's so good at drawing fouls, which he did late in the game (shooting nine free throws in a span of 3:05), but Devin did a good job of staying away from his body."
That helped limit the production of several other Buckeyes as well. Jon Diebler, who had nine points in the first half (on three 3-pointers) only managed two in the final period.
As only five OSU players scored in the contest, William Buford's 22 points (11 in each half) simply weren't enough to keep his team close with both Diebler and Turner struggling to produce down the stretch.
"I think what happened the first half was we didn't do a very good job on Evan," Huggins said. "Then, what happens is, and what makes them so good, is you've got to help. Who do you help off of? Diebler is going to make shots, Buford is making shots, (David) Lighty is making shots."
"I didn't want to have to do what we had to do in the first half. I thought we over-helped on (Turner) in the first half. I just wanted Devin to stay in front of him and make him try to make shots over him. That's hard."
As a result, Ohio State managed to score only eight field goals in the second half (only one of which was a 3-pointer). Coupled with some rare struggles from the free throw line for Turner (who was 6-of-10 from the charity stripe for the game), it made for a poor offensive second half for head coach Thad Matta and company.
With the Mountaineers surging on offense in their own right, it left little chance for the Buckeyes to hold onto control of a game they once seemed to have a vice-grip on.
That grip started to loosen as WVU started to dissect the 1-3-1 zone that Matta had his team playing to great effect in the first half.
"I think the biggest difference was we ran offense in the second half," Huggins said. "They came out in a 1-3-1, and I honestly thought they'd come out and play man. They probably played 1-3-1 because we haven't shot as well as of late. We just played pitch and catch on the perimeter (in the first half), and it's hard to score when you play pitch and catch."
But that changed when Butler began knocking down shots, exposing the lane further for attacks by point guard Truck Bryant, who had 14 points and took opponents off the dribble on several occasions in the second half.
It also didn't hurt that West Virginia managed a 15-6 edge in second chance points as a result of improved offensive rebounding in the final period.
"What (Butler) did was forced them to over-help a little bit, which opened some things for Truck to make some shots," Huggins explained. "When you get them extended --which, we didn't get them extended as much in the first half -- you can rebound the ball a little better offensively."
Butler's 21 points and eight rebounds led the way for WVU. Kevin Jones narrowly missed another double-double with nine points and 11 boards. Wellington Smith scored 11, all of which came in the first half, to keep his team in the contest early.
For Ohio State, Buford had a game-high 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting and added three assists. Turner had 11 rebounds to go with his 18 points.
With the win, the Mountaineers managed to avoid losing for the second time in as many games in which it held a jersey retirement ceremony at halftime.
Hot Rod Hundley was honored at the intermission, his No. 33 joining Jerry West's No. 44 as the only jerseys so honored by the WVU athletic program. The legendary guard/forward even took a basketball and made a hook shot from about 12 feet away -- while still donning his blazer -- to the delight of the crowd of 15,033.