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Dec. 22, 2004

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By RUSTY MILLER
AP Sports Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Terence Dials dominated inside with a career-high 29 points and 13 rebounds to lead Ohio State to a 102-77 victory over Mercer on Wednesday night.

The win was the fourth in a row for Ohio State (9-2) – all since athletic administrators announced the team would not play in the postseason because of NCAA violations which occurred under former coach Jim O’Brien.

Tony Stockman flirted with the first triple-double ever for Ohio State, finishing with 10 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

J.J. Sullinger added 16 points, Ivan Harris 13 and Je’Kel Foster 11 for Ohio State, which scored more than 100 points for the first time since beating George Mason 102-72 eight years ago.

The game was played before a sparse crowd because of heavy snowfall and freezing rain that hit the Columbus area on Wednesday. For the first time ever, spectators in the balcony at Value City Arena were permitted to come down into the lower bowl to fill up the thousands of empty seats.

Dials, the reigning Big Ten player of the week, has set career highs in scoring twice during the Buckeyes’ winning streak. In those four games, he is averaging 22 points and 10 rebounds a game.

The 6-foot-9 center hit 12-of-15 shots from the field and 5-of-7 free throws.

Jacob Skogen scored 19 points and Will Emerson had 15 for Mercer (5-2), whose only previous loss was to then-No. 15 Maryland.

The Bears used an 8-0 run to take a 24-19 lead midway through the opening half, with Skogen and Andrew Walker hitting 3s and Wesley Duke powering in a follow.

It took Ohio State time to finally find Dials inside. When the Buckeyes did, they went to him on every trip down the floor. He followed his own miss to tie the game at 26, then later scored seven points in a row to give Ohio State a 36-31 lead.

That Dials-led surge was part of an 11-0 run, breaking a tie at 31 and capped by Dials’ backdoor layup off an assist pass from Sullinger.

Ahead 46-35 at the break behind Dials’ 15 points and eight rebounds, the Buckeyes hit three quick baskets – two by Dials. Mercer never got closer than 13 in the second half.

Ohio State dominated the rebounding, 50-28.