Deshaun Thomas scored a career-high 30 points (20 after halftime) to go with six rebounds and three assists to lead Ohio State (10-1) to a 74-66 road win over South Carolina. The Buckeyes gave Thad Matta his 200th OSU win despite missing Jared Sullinger, who sustained a foot injury early in the game and missed most of the contest getting x-rays (negative). Ohio State overcame a sloppy first half (nine turnovers, 1-7 on three-pointers) and hot first-half shooting from the Gamecocks (4-7 on triples) to turn a four-point deficit into an eight-point victory. Perhaps more important than the outcome of the game itself, Sullinger appeared to get kicked in the foot and sustained a reported contusion. He left the arena to get x-rayed and returned on crutches in street clothes during the second half. William Buford was the only other Buckeye in double figures, scoring 17 points to move into 10th in scoring in school history. Buford added five assists and five rebounds.
South Carolina (4-6) took advantage of Sullinger’s absence and Ohio State’s turnovers and cold shooting from the perimeter to close the first half on a 22-11 run, grabbing a 33-29 halftime advantage. If not for the Buckeyes’ 17-8 dominance on the boards (7-3 offensive), the game could have turned ugly for Ohio State. The Buckeyes fell behind by six on Lakeem Jackson’s jumper early in the second half, but responded with a 12-2 run by the five minute mark of the second half, forcing a South Carolina timeout. Lenzelle Smith scored five of his nine points during that run, which featured great ball movement by the Buckeyes, leading to layups by Thomas and Buford.
After the timeout, Anthony Gill hit a jumper for the Gamecocks, but Ohio State scored five of the next seven on two Smith free throws and a Thomas trey. The teams traded points until the nine minute mark, when Thomas scored six of Ohio State’s eight consecutive points to push the lead to 11. The lead grew to 13 on a Thomas three-pointer at 66-53, and Ohio State took care of business down the stretch, beating the South Carolina press and making enough free throws to close out the game. Malik Cooke scored 21 points for the Gamecocks, despite having to leave twice for profuse bleeding from a cut on his left eye created by an errant (and unintentional) Thomas elbow. Gill created problems with 11 points and four rebounds and getting Evan Ravenel into foul trouble. Bruce Ellington added eight points off the bench.
The Buckeyes got only four points from Aaron Craft, but he did pick up five assists and two steals. With Ravenel (five points, three rebounds) in foul trouble, Amir Williams picked up some significant minutes and contributed six points, four rebounds and two blocks. Ohio State’s first half was marred by the nine turnovers, defensive lapses and icy shooting. Open looks beyond the arc did not fall, and the 14.3% shooting was bleak next to South Carolina’s 5-7 (57.1%). Overall, the Buckeyes were 12-26 (46.2%) before the break. Damien Leonard was 2-2 from deep in the first half, despite entering as a 26% three-point shooter. He reverted to form after the half, missing all three attempts. In the 45-point second half, Ohio State improved its shooting percentage to 50.9% (33.3% outside the arc), while South Carolina sunk to 47.9% and 40%. The Buckeyes closed with a 33-19 rebounding edge, 15-8 on the offensive end, where Thomas shone (5).
Since the Duke game, Tank has really come on, averaging 20 points per game. Aside from his five turnovers in the game, he was spectacular, making up for uneven games from Craft, Buford and Smith. Thomas hit 13 of his 16 shots (2-5 outside) and went 2-3 from the line. His athleticism created problems for South Carolina all afternoon, and when the Buckeyes kept finding him in the second half, they took the lead and pulled away.
Matta shied away from his bench again, despite getting good production from Sam Thompson in the midweek win over South Carolina-Upstate. He went to Ravenel when Sullinger got injured and only turned to Williams when Ravenel picked up fouls. Jordan Sibert played sparingly, failing to score on a pair of missed treys, but he did record a rebound, an assist and a steal. Shannon Scott saw the floor earlier than usual in the first half, spelling Craft, but he didn’t play long.
Notes: Ohio State picked up its first road win of the season, after falling at Kansas, and is now 1-1 away from The Schott…Matta joins Fred Taylor (279 wins 1959-76) and Harold G. Olsen (254 from 1923-46) as just the third OSU coach to post 200 wins…Ohio State will face Lamar on Tuesday and Miami of Ohio on Thursday this week…The Buckeyes will honor alum Bob Knight prior to the Lamar game.