Nov. 12, 2006
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -Late in the first half of the BCA Classic title game, Ohio State coach Thad Matta called a timeout and laced into his players.
“I don’t know if I could repeat it,” Matta said when asked what he said.
The seventh-ranked Buckeyes responded with a spurt, better defense and improved rebounding to pull away for an 81-59 victory over Kent State on Sunday night.
Ron Lewis led the way with 18 points and three teammates joined him in double figures as the Buckeyes went 3-0 in the tournament despite the absence of injured big man Greg Oden.
“He (Matta) was really just telling us to buckle up and play basketball, to stop thinking about anything else and just play basketball,” Lewis said.
Jamar Butler, the only starter back from last season’s Big Ten champions, added 14 points, junior-college transfer Othello Hunter had 13 and freshman David Lighty finished with 10. Another player had nine points and two others had eight.
Lewis was the tournament MVP for the Buckeyes (3-0). He was joined on the all-tournament team by freshman Daequan Cook.
“I think the MVP award is really overrated,” Lewis said. “It’s a team game and everybody contributed. They’ve got to give somebody the trophy, but it goes to the team.”
Nobody hit double figures for Kent State (2-1), the defending Mid-American Conference regular-season and tournament champions. Omni Smith had nine points and three others had eight.
“In the second half we just went away from our game plan defensively. Our guys got caught with a deer-in-the-headlights type of look,” coach Jim Christian said. “We let them get some easy 3-point shots and against a team like Ohio State, you can’t let them go on runs like that.”
The Buckeyes hit half of their 26 3-point attempts and ended up shooting 55 percent from the field. Kent State had 20 turnovers and hit just 4-of-15 shots behind the arc.
Sub Ivan Harris hit three big 3-pointers that helped turned the tide.
“When I come off the bench, I don’t think twice,” he said.
Butler said the team had nicknamed the lanky swingman “The Microwave” because he heats things up.
Ohio State has only eight scholarship players until Oden – a prized 7-foot center – is able to come back from surgery on his right wrist. As a result, there is little rest but a lot of playing time for a team with five first-year major-college players. On top of that, the Buckeyes play at a frenetic pace in their motion offense and in their stifling man-to-man defense.
The Buckeyes trailed 25-22 late in the half before Matta called his timeout and his team went on a 9-0 run to take the lead for good. Lewis started it with a 3 and Butler hit another before the Buckeyes made three free throws on the way to a 33-30 halftime lead.
The Golden Flashes kept hanging around, slashing through the lane for baskets and trapping all over the court on defense. They were down just 56-48 midway through the second half when the Buckeyes pulled away again.
This time, Ivan Harris hit a 3, Butler muscled in a 10-foot jumper while he was fouled and then hit the free throw and Hunter powered his way inside for a follow to push the lead to 64-48.
The lead never dropped below double figures again.
“We came apart out there and they did a good job of taking advantage of it,” Christian said.
Lewis said he learned something about his young teammates.
“In this game we learned to not quit or to get down on ourselves,” he said. “We’re going to make mistakes, but we just have to keep fighting to win.”