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December 11, 2013

Buckeyes batter Bryant

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- If being ranked the No. 3/2 team in the country serves as a blessing and a burden, consider Ohio State up for the challenge.

The Buckeyes, which creeped near the top of both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches polls earlier this week, dismantled Bryant, 86-48, Wednesday night at the Schottenstein Center.

"This is the best of the best," said Bulldogs coach Tim O'Shea. "They're a few teams in the country that'll contend for the national championship legitimately and clearly Ohio State is one of them."

Thad Matta's crew shot 52 percent from the floor and smothered their adversary to just 28 percent shooting with a trademark defensive effort that included 13 steals and 10 blocks.

"They play national championship-caliber defense. They've got the length, they've got the shot blocking, they've got the quickness, they've got that great point guard who's not only a great offensive player, he's a phenomenal, phenomenal defender," O'Shea said.

"I'm very impressed. I was so impressed."

The Buckeyes were just about as efficient on offense too, outscoring Bryant, 44-18, in points in the paint. They also scored 22 points off the Bulldogs' 19 turnovers.

Leading the way was Lenzelle Smith Jr., who totaled 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Amir Williams added 12 points and LaQuinton Ross, who was named the Big Ten Player of the Week for the first time in his career, and freshman Marc Loving each chipped in nine.

But it was Smith Jr. who gave Bryant fits.

"Something I picked up on last year, he has to have a chip on his shoulder and I think he's done a very good job of that this year," Matta said.

It was certainly enough to subdue a Bulldogs squad that nearly upset Notre Dame Monday.

Such fortune did not follow Bryant to Columbus.

"I knew Notre Dame would have a shot because athletically we could kind of keep up with them but I knew tonight just based on the athleticism of Ohio State it was gonna be tough for us," O'Shea said.

After tussling with Bryant to a 14-11 advantage about six minutes into the contest, the Buckeyes exploded behind crisp ball movement that ignited a 54-percent shooting outing in the first half.

"It's basketball, we're making great finds, we're reading each other, we have great guards on the perimeter we're able to attack the defense on every side and penetrate and kick the ball out I mean that's what you wanna do and our offensive shooting has increased over these past three or four games," Smith Jr. said.

After an 8-0 run to close out the half, the Buckeyes would head into intermission up, 43-23, before bloating such a cushion in the game's final 20 minutes.

Part of that dealt with holding Dyami Starks -- arguably Bryant's only highlight Wednesday -- at bay. After the junior guard notched 12 points in the first period, the Buckeyes limited him to four points in the second.

"We know they have some great players on their team, Dyami Starks is a prolific scorer, he's gonna get shots up and he's gonna make a lot of shots if he's got confidence and you let him get wide open looks," Smith Jr. said.

"We just tried to limit his shots and limit the good looks that he got off the basket and we forced him into some tough shots and we were able to get the rebound and we were off to the races from there and that's when we're playing our best basketball."

Ohio State is set to play North Dakota State Saturday at 8:15 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.

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