#6 Ohio State Buries #7 North Carolina with big Second Half
The 6th ranked Ohio State basketball Buckeyes went on the road for the first time this season and didn’t disappoint, playing in one of the toughest environments in all of college basketball, Ohio State drilled 7th ranked North Carolina 74-49 to move to 8-0. As they say, defense travels and it certainly rung true again tonight as the intense Ohio State defense, contested every Tarheel shot, holding North Carolina to just 27% shooting in coming away with a huge road victory. Duane Washington, Jr. led 4 Buckeyes in doubles with 18. E.J. Liddell added 12 points, 5 rebounds, and a pair of blocks in just 15 minutes of action. Kaleb Wesson added 10 points and 9 rebounds and C.J. Walker added 10 for the victors.
North Carolina got the scoring started early, scoring the first 5 of the basketball game before a Duane Washington triple from the left corner got the Buckeyes on the board 3 minutes into the game. The Buckeyes struggled from the floor early, hitting just 1 of 7 and were very fortunate to be down just 5-3 at the first media timeout. Kaleb Wesson buried a three off the inbounds pass coming out of the timeout to give Ohio State a short-lived lead as Carolina answered with a 3 of their own to go ahead 8-6. Back came the Buckeyes as a pair of Washington triples gave the Buckeyes a 12-8 lead with 14:30 remaining in the half. E.J. Liddell got into the action, scoring on a pair of turnaround jumpers in the lane and after Luther Muhammad scored off a dribble drive lay in, the Buckeyes led 20-12 heading into the under 12 media timeout with Ohio State on an 8-2 run. A Carolina 5-0 run cut the lead to 22-19 before Washington drilled his 4th triple of the game to get the lead back to 6. Star North Carolina freshman guard Cole Anthony answered with a triple on the ensuing possession and the Buckeyes to trim the Buckeye lead back to 3 with 7:40 to go in the first half. The Buckeyes lost their composure a touch over a couple minute span, turning it over 4 times, as the Tarheels cut the lead to 27-25 with 4:20 to go. C.J. Walker settled the Buckeyes down a bit drilling a jumper to extend the lead to 4, at 29-25 as the teams went to their respective benches at the under 4 minute timeout and 3:39 showing on the game clock. Carolina would score one more bucket prior to the half but sloppy play for Ohio State offensively, turning it over 4 more times in the last 3 minutes, kept Ohio State scoreless over the last 4 minutes of the half, but still clinging to a 29-27 advantage. The Buckeyes were careless with the basketball in long stretches of the first half, turning it over a total of 10 times, while Carolina turned it over just 3 times. The intensity on the defensive end however, never waned, holding North Carolina to just 28.6% shooting by contesting nearly every Tarheel shot, while the Buckeyes, who didn’t shoot it well themselves, were still better at 39.3%. Duane Washington Jr. led all scorers with 12 in the first 20 minutes. E.J. Liddell added 6 and Kaleb Wesson chipped in 5 to go along with 6 boards.
The teams traded buckets early but the Buckeyes went on a little spurt started by a dribble drive short jumper by Washington who scored while being fouled and he buried the free throw to give Ohio State a 6-point lead. After Carolina split a pair of free throws, back to back lay ups by Washington and Kyle Young gave Ohio State a 39-30 lead with 17 minutes to go in the game. Back came North Carolina as Cole Anthony drilled a deep, cold-blooded three with Walker in his face to trim the lead to 6. After a Buckeye miss, Anthony drilled another 3 to cut the lead to 39-36 as the teams went to the bench at the under 16 timeout. The Buckeyes would proceed to go on a 6-0 run that included an Andre Wesson three from the top forcing Tarheel coach Roy Williams to call timeout with Ohio State ahead 45-36 and 13:35 remaining in the game. The run would increase to 9-0 when D.J. Carton left handed a three from the left wing, giving Ohio State a 48-36 lead. Andre Wesson found E.J. Liddell in transition for a dunk that pushed the Buckeye lead to 14 heading into the under 12 minute media timeout with Ohio State leading 54-40 and 10:42 remaining in regulation and Ohio State outscoring North Carolina 24-8 in the paint. 3 turnovers in four possessions for Ohio State, including a pair of questionable offensive foul calls on Kaleb Wesson, allowed North Carolina to trim the lead to 11 with 8 minutes to go. The Buckeyes would answer with a 14-0 run over the next 4 minutes to bury North Carolina, 5 by D.J. Carton including a pair of dimes to lead 71-48 with 3 minutes to go, sending the Carolina faithful to the parking lot and the sound of O-H-I-O reverberating around the Dean Dome.
The question was not if Ohio State was talented. I think we are all seeing how good this team can be. The question was how would a young team handle going on the road for the first time and not only on the road, but in a tremendously difficult building. Despite some of the ACC apologists (Jay Bilas), Ohio State showed the country they are for real and better be taken seriously, as they answered every question and then some. They faced some stretches of adversity but settled down and pulled away midway through the second half and when they struggled at times taking care of the basketball, they locked down on the defensive end, making things very uncomfortable for the Tarheels to get into any of their sets. Once they settled down on the other end, Ohio State exhibited patience and the aggressiveness, even outrebounding the ‘Heels 48-32, and were able to essentially dominate. There is still a lot of basketball to play but Ohio State is putting the Big Ten and the country on alert. The Buckeyes are for real and tonight was just the latest example.
The Buckeyes open Big Ten play on Saturday, hosting Penn State at the Schott. Tip time scheduled for high noon, airing on BTN.