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Buckeyes Clip Blue Hens 76-64

No. 3 Ohio State found itself in an early 9-3 deficit against visiting Delaware Wednesday night.

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But the Buckeyes went on a 12-0 run late in the first half and coasted to a 76-64 win over the Blue Hens in the BlackRock Gotham Classic before 14,402 at Value City Arena.

“We came out and just weren’t as sharp as we needed to be,” said OSU coach Thad Matta. “We’re a team that has to have the juice. We need to have constant energy.

“Sometimes you have some games where things aren’t clicking the way you want them to. However, the difference between good teams and great teams is great teams figure it out and win.”

LaQuinton Ross had 19 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots to lead Ohio State, which improved to 11-0 on the season. He led five OSU players in double figures. OSU's string of five straight games with 50 percent shooting was snapped as the Buckeyes only hit 40.7 percent of their shots (24 of 57).

“Some days you put the ball in the bucket,” said OSU senior guard Aaron Craft. “I think you have to give them some credit. They contested some shots. They took us out of our first look. We missed some layups early and that may have affected us a little bit. Sometimes you have to find a way to win when the shots aren’t going in.”

Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 14 points and four rebounds. Craft had 12 points and four steals, while Amir Williams added 11 points and 12 rebounds.

“Coach told us they were a great offensive rebounding team,” said Williams, who helped the Buckeyes outrebound the Blue Hens 46-30. “We knew we had to block out and go get the ball. We couldn’t let them get too many of their misses back. I took pride of that and tried to get as many defensive rebounds as I could tonight.”

Amedeo Della Valle came off the bench to tally 10 points.

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“I want Amedeo to be confident and relaxed,” Matta said. “He’s got a pretty good role on this basketball team. Tonight, I thought he played that role perfectly.”

Craft was unhappy with OSU’s slow start.

"That is on us as players and we need to take ownership of that,” Craft said. “Coach Matta does a great job every game to prepare us, so Lenzelle Smith Jr. and I as seniors need to do a better job of getting the team ready to go."

Devon Saddler led Delaware (5-6) with 17 points, while Jarvis Threatt added 14 points for the game Blue Hens.

“For the most part, our guys stood toe-to-toe with what I would call the best team in the country,” said Delaware coach Monte Ross. “That’s a good basketball team. I told our guys coming in we couldn’t blink.”

“I hope that Ohio State goes on to win the rest of their games.”

Ross had 11 points and Williams had nine points and eight rebounds as Ohio State surged ahead late for a 37-26 halftime lead. The Buckeyes shot just 39.4 percent (13 of 33) from the floor.

The Buckeyes got off to a dismal 1-for-9 start from the floor is nothing seemed to go in for them. Delaware’s Davon Usher hit a three and had a layup as the Blue Hens led 9-3 with 16:20 left in the first half.

Craft hit a three before Ross gave OSU its first lead at 13-12 on a layup with 13:07 left in the first half.

Devonne Pinkard hit a three for Delaware for a 17-16 lead with 10:34 left. But Craft answered with a driving layup to regain the lead. Delaware then got back-to-back threes from Saddler and Pinkard to forge a 24-21 lead with 5:04 left. The Blue Hens still led at 26-25 after a baseline jumper from Marvin King-Davis with 3:29 left in the half.

This is where the Buckeyes were able to outscore the Blue Hens 12-0 the rest of the half. Ross started the run with a three from the left wing off a Craft assist. Della Valle then grabbed a defensive rebound, went coast-to-coast for the layup and was fouled. His free throw made it 31-26.

Williams then hit two free throws before Ross converted a Craft steal into a layup. Delaware’s Usher was then whistled for a charge after making a backcourt steal with 21 seconds left. OSU called timeout with four seconds left. Delaware coach Monte Ross had words for the officials during the timeout and was assessed a technical foul. Craft hit those two free throws to cap the scoring for the half and put the Buckeyes up 37-26.

“Things weren’t going well for us early,” Matta said. “But I think we once again finished the first half on a strong note. That was probably the difference in the game for us.”

Craft added, “Usually when we go on a run, it’s because of our defense. We have been doing a good job of closing the half in the last few games. Luckily we were able to do it tonight. We were able to get some stops and get out in transition.”

Ross hit a three, Craft had a layup and Smith completed a three-point play early in the second half as OSU surged ahead 45-31 with 16:15 left in the game.

The lead went to 13 at 50-37 after Sam Thompson hit a three from the left corner off a pass from Shannon Scott with 13:30 left.

Ross had a rebound basket before Trey McDonald blocked a Delaware shot leading to a fast break where Scott found Della Valle for a three and a 55-40 lead with 12:02 left.

Della Valle then contested a Delaware miss, leading to another fast break where Scott got it back to Della Valle for a three on the right wing and a 60-44 lead with 10:28 left.

But Delaware chipped away. The Blue Hens got it down to nine at 63-54 after three straight layups by Saddler and a drive by Usher with 5:57 left.

Ohio State answered by attacking the basket. Williams was fouled on a shot attempt and made 1 of 2 free throws. Smith was then fouled and made two free throws. Ross made a spinning layup inside for a 68-54 lead with 4:25 left.

Delaware’s Carl Baptiste had a tip-in and, after a Craft missed three, Saddler drove around OSU’s Thompson for a layup to cut it to 68-58 with 2:10 left. OSU then turned it over against pressure and Saddler converted with one more layup down the middle to cut it to 68-60 with 1:45 left.

But Smith calmly canned a 16-footer on the baseline to get the lead back to 10 at 70-60 with 1:27 left.

After a Delaware miss, Smith was fouled. His two free throws made it 72-60 with 56.2 seconds left.

Threatt then scored for the Blue Hens to make it 72-62 with 45.8 seconds left. Smith was fouled and made a pair of free throws for a 74-62 lead with 39.1 seconds left. Threatt then scored again. Craft was fouled and hit a pair of free throws for a 76-64 lead with 26 seconds left.

“Our experience probably helped us down the stretch,” Matta said. “We made the right plays we needed to make.”

Also Notable

* The Buckeyes held Delaware to season-low 64 points. Entering the game, Ohio State ranked third nationally in scoring defense (54.6 ppg).

* Ohio State is now 3-0 all-time against Delaware. The teams first met Jan. 11, 1960, a 109-38 win for the No. 7-ranked Buckeyes. That Ohio State team went on to win the 1960 NCAA National Championship.

Most recently, the Blue Hens traveled to Columbus Nov. 19, 2004, the first year for Thad Matta at the helm of the Buckeyes. Ohio State won that game, 74-49. Tony Stockman scored a game-high 26 points and J.J. Sullinger added 12 points to lead Ohio State.

Ohio State is now 8-2 all-time vs. teams currently representing the Colonial Athletic Association.

* This was the eighth of eight straight home games for Ohio State. The string runs up to a Dec. 21 game against Notre Dame at New York’s Madison Square Garden. This is also the third of four straight games in the BlackRock Gotham Classic, culminating in that game against Notre Dame.

* Thad Matta’s teams are 163-14 in home games in his nine-plus years as the OSU coach. Over the last four-plus years, the Buckeyes are 81-3 at home.

* Against nonconference opponents, Matta’s OSU teams are a combined 129-22 in his tenure. That includes a record of 87-3 at home against nonconference teams.

* Ohio State has won 77 straight home games against unranked opponents and 50 consecutive non-conference home games against unranked opponents. The last loss was Dec. 27, 2008 vs. West Virginia.

* Matta’s teams are a combined 144-2 against unranked teams at home. Ohio State is 108-6 all-time vs. non-conference opponents at Value City Arena.

* Matta is 60-9 in the month of December as OSU head coach.

* Craft collected four steals against Delaware. He ranks third all-time in Big Ten history with 276. He needs 25 steals to pass Gary Grant (300) for second all-time and 49 to pass Bruce Douglas for 324.

He also had two assists against the Blue Hens. He is Ohio State’s all-time assist leader with 583 for his career.

* Ross has scored in double figures in five of the last six games.

* Williams posted his third career double-double.

* The Buckeyes are 10-0 at home this year. The home winning streak is 14 straight, dating to a loss to Indiana last Feb. 10.

* The Buckeyes will play Notre Dame (8-3) on Saturday at New York’s Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m., ESPN2) in the final game of the Gotham Classic. OSU’s next home game is Dec. 27 against Louisiana-Monroe.

* Click here for the box score of OSU-Delaware.

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