With all the publicity that freshman forward Jared Sullinger and senior guard Jon Diebler have been getting for the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes in recent weeks, it’s sometimes easy to forget about senior guard/forward David Lighty. The UNC Asheville Bulldogs seemed to forget about him in the first half, but they’ll remember him from now on. Lighty scored a game-high 29 points and hit a career-best seven 3-pointers in 10 attempts to lead the No. 2 Buckeyes to a 96-49 thrashing of the Bulldogs Tuesday night at the Schottenstein Center.
Ohio State improved to 11-0 to equal its best start under coach Thad Matta and the fourth best in school history. Lighty, in his 99th career start (10th most in school history), set a season high for points, only one shy of his career high, and tied the third most by a Buckeye this season. By comparison, Sullinger and Diebler looked merely human, with their nine points apiece, although Matta spoiled Sullinger’s bid for a double double by pulling him when the lead grew in the second half. The big freshman pulled down 16 rebounds, dished out a career-high five assists and added two steals. Junior guard William Buford chipped in 14 points and five rebounds, and freshman forward Deshaun Thomas added 13 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
The OSU bench was impressive far beyond Thomas and point guard Aaron Craft, contributing 31 points, 19 rebounds, 10 steals, nine assists and only turning the ball over three times and committing two fouls. Matta’s reserves allowed only six points in the final ten minutes. But the game was really won in the first half by Lighty’s performance. When he wasn’t knocking down his five first-half 3-pointers, he was driving to the basket for easy points.
Lighty scored 23 in the first half – one less than the entire UNC Asheville team – equaling his jersey number. His 23 first-half points were a career high for a half. He wasn’t just hot, he was downright atomic, hitting 9-of-12 first-half shots, including 5-of-7 from beyond the 3-point line. Buford added nine first-half points, with Sullinger and Diebler adding five apiece.
The Bulldogs decided to pick their poison early, leaving Lighty open repeatedly, and choosing instead to help out defensively on Diebler and Sullinger. Lighty responded by scorching UNCA, scoring Ohio State’s first 11 points and 13 of the first 16. He hit five of his first six shots, including three 3-pointers, in helping Ohio State build a 16-5 lead. Bulldogs guard J.P. Primm cut the OSU lead to eight with a 3-pointer, but the Buckeyes turned up the defense and went on a 10-2 run to push the lead to 26-10, culminating with a Buford three. Ohio State shot 59% from the field in the first half and went 7-for-13 from the 3-point line.
UNC Asheville (5-6) trailed 48-24 at the half, but came out of the break smoking hot, starting the second half on an 8-0 run and hitting four consecutive shots to cut the OSU lead to 16. It was as if the Bulldogs had taken a halftime caning from coach Eddie Biedenbach, the Big South Conference’s all-time leader in wins. But the Buckeyes stopped UNCA’s early momentum on another Lighty 3-pointer. The two teams traded buckets for a few minutes, but from that point on it was all Ohio State. The Buckeyes finished the game on a 38-9 run and smothered the Bulldogs on the defensive end. UNCA finished with 21 turnovers and shot only 37.5% from the field.
Ohioan D.J. Cunningham led the Bulldogs with eight points before the break, and finished with 13 in his homecoming. He also pulled down seven rebounds, blocked a shot, and rounded out his score line with a technical foul. The Buckeye defense held a good 3-point shooting team to just 4-of-15 from behind the line, and limited junior guard Matt Dickey, UNCA’s leading scorer (16.7 points per game) to just four points, while forcing him into five turnovers. Primm was a bright spot for UNC Asheville, scoring 15 points, but he also committed seven turnovers.
Notes: Ohio State’s 96 points were the most since a 102-61 drubbing of North Carolina A&T on opening night, Nov. 12…Diebler extended his 3-point scoring streak to 27 games, but was held to just 1-of-4 from behind the arc, and remains five behind Dee Brown for sixth on the Big Ten’s all-time list…Sullinger reached double figures in rebounds for the sixth time in his first 11 games…Lighty passed Richard Schnittker, Jamaal Brown and Frank Howard on OSU’s all-time scoring list into 32nd place, with 1,157 points…Ohio State improved to 12-0 against Big South Conference opponents and 4-0 against UNC Asheville, while the Bulldogs fell to 0-12 against the Big Ten overall and 0-3 against ranked opponents this season…Ohio State’s next game is Thursday against a pesky Oakland team at 8 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.