Diebler, now just eight shy of Dee Brown for sixth on the league’s all-time list of 3-pointers made, was joined in double figures by junior guard William Buford (17) and freshman forward Jared Sullinger (11) in a solid, but otherwise uninspired win against their Atlantic Sun Conference opponents. It’s a good thing Diebler was red hot for most of the game, as senior forward David Lighty shot just 2-of-9 from the floor, finishing with seven points, while Buford needed 18 shots to net his 17 points.
As he did on Sunday against Western Carolina, OSU coach Thad Matta used his bench early and often against Florida Gulf Coast (2-6). Nine Buckeyes played before halftime. But in the second half, Matta left his starters on the floor until the waning moments, in response to some sloppy play and forced shots by the Buckeyes, as their focus seemed to slip at times. The Buckeyes also turned the ball over nine times in the second half, after committing only three first-half turnovers, and they outscored FGCU only 41-39 after the break, despite playing mainly their regulars.
Ohio State pushed its lead from 19 to as many as 32, which seemed to pacify the Buckeye coach. During that streak, Diebler hit three triples and Buford nailed a jumper that pushed his career scoring over the 1,000-point mark. Although his teammates kept looking for him, and he launched a few more threes, Diebler was unable to capture the Big Ten mark, despite getting some good looks. Maybe he was tired.
Other than Diebler’s hot hand, Ohio State’s offense was as icy as the Columbus weather at times. At one point in the first half, the Buckeyes were 3-of-14 shooting before freshman point guard Aaron Craft hit a three to start Ohio State on an 11-0 run. The last points of that run came on the Diebler 3-pointer that pushed him past Indiana’s A.J. Guyton and into seventh on the conference’s all-time list. The Buckeyes recovered their touch somewhat, shooting 42% (16 of 38) and closing out the half on a 26-8 run. Fifteen of Diebler’s 29 points came in the first half on 5-of-7 shooting, all from beyond the arc. Buford added nine first-half points, but made only four of 12 field goal attempts.
If the Buckeyes were cold shooting the ball at times, at least they were getting shots. The Eagles had trouble even getting any chances, committing 14 first-half turnovers. At one point they had taken six shots and committed seven turnovers. FGCU had only five more shots (19) than turnovers in the game’s first half, and they finished with 22 giveaways.
Freshman forward Chase Fieler, who kept FGCU close in the opening minutes with a pair of 3-point baskets, led the Eagles with 12 points. Sophomore forward Anthony Banks added 10 points. Senior guard Reed Baker, a transfer from that school up north and the Eagles’ leading scorer, went just 1-for-5 in the first half, for two points. Baker entered the game averaging 17 points per contest, but accounted for only eight on the night and went 0-for-5 from beyond the 3-point line.
For the first time this season, Sullinger looked like a freshman. He scored only two points and committed two fouls in the opening 20 minutes, spending a good chunk of the first half on the bench. But he responded well in the second half, finishing with 11 points, three rebounds and two steals. In one sequence, Sullinger scored on a drive to the basket at one end, and then dove to the floor to come up with a steal on the other.
Diebler opened the second half with his sixth 3-pointer of the game on the first OSU possession, mirroring the trey he nailed to open Sunday’s second half against Western Carolina. Fieler answered with his third 3-pointer of the game for FGCU, but then the Eagles resumed their giving ways, turning the ball over on their next two possessions.
From that point on, Ohio State got a bit sloppy and the Eagles kept scrapping to keep the score line much less embarrassing as it could have been.
Notes: Ohio State is now 11-0 all-time against teams from the Atlantic Sun Conference…The 9-0 start equals the second best for OSU under Matta…It was the first meeting ever between Florida Gulf Coast University and Ohio State…FGCU is 0-2 against the Big Ten this season, with losses at Indiana and Ohio State…With two more blocked shots, Lauderdale is now just six shy of tying Brad Sellers for third on the all-time OSU list…Craft’s eight points snapped a two-game scoreless streak for the freshman. He had not figured in the scoring since he notched five points at Florida State on Nov. 30…The Buckeyes will be back in action on Saturday at 2 p.m., when they host the South Carolina Gamecocks at the Schottenstein Center in the fourth of seven straight home games. The game will be televised on CBS.