Deshaun Thomas scored a career high 31 points to lead Ohio State to a fairly unimpressive 78-59 win over Loyola (MD) Thursday night—and into Friday morning—at Pittsburgh’s CONSOL Energy Center. Tank added 12 rebounds, an assist and two blocks on the night, and the Buckeyes needed his outstanding game because they played an otherwise very uninspired game. The Greyhounds were pesky and never quit, despite having half the team in foul trouble before halftime. The Buckeyes took their foot off the gas after building a 20-point second-half lead, committing 12 of the 18 total turnovers after the break. The Greyhounds took advantage by cutting the lead to 11 in the final minutes, forcing Thad Matta to put his starters back on the floor. William Buford salted the game away with a pair of triples, and Ohio State will face Gonzaga on Saturday.
Buford scored a very quiet 17 points (seriously, I did a double-take when I saw how many points he finished with), hitting four of his last six shots after a 1-5 start. Jared Sullinger pitched in a double-double with 12 points and 10 rips, adding five blocks. On the other hand, Sully probably had more than five of his 14 attempts blocked. The big fellow was only 4-14 on the night in a game that caused more frustration than celebration. All of Sully’s 12 points came in the first half.
Ohio State led 42-31 at halftime, but it would have been a pretty lopsided game had the Buckeyes been able to hit their shots. Ohio State’s dreadful 12-35 (34.3%) was enough to keep the Greyhounds in the game, despite four first-half fouls from R.J. Williams and Justin Drummond. Erik Etherly was outstanding for Loyola, scoring 10 in the first half and 19 for the game, with seven rebounds, four blocks and two assists. Etherly and Shane Walker doubled down on Sullinger defensively, and stymied him time and again.
Thomas’ 14 first-half points were only a small sign of things to come, because he got them on 5-12 shooting. After the break he was a man possessed, hitting 8-10 and scoring 17. Tank’s play allowed Ohio State to build some separation, assisted by the usual great defense from Aaron Craft, who finished with eight points, five rebounds, three steals and four assists. Shannon Scott saw extended playing time, sometimes with Craft and sometimes without. He played pretty well, with two points, two rebounds and a steal, to only one turnover. Evan Ravenel had some rough minutes early, but contributed in the second half. Sam Thompson didn’t have his best game though, and it should be mentioned that Loyola made a late run with Thompson, Ravenel and J.D. Weatherspoon on the floor.
Ohio State did manage to improve its shooting percentage to 44.8% for the game, but the 12 second-half turnovers and 18 miscues overall did not look like the work of a No. 2 seed. Whether it was opening night tournament jitters, a lethargic approach to a perceived weaker opponent or something else, the Buckeyes have Friday to figure it out before they run into a talented Gonzaga team.