Ohio St. 69, Virginia Tech 56
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—Ohio State had an edge in toughness over the final 2 1/2 minutes, and that was enough.
Ron Lewis scored seven points in a 10-0 game-closing run to lead the Buckeyes to a 69-56 victory over Virginia Tech on Monday night in the opening game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
“They played tougher for 23 minutes and we did for 17 minutes,” Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “That’s why we lost.”
J.J. Sullinger scored 14 points, Sylvester Mayes added 13, Terence Dials 11 and Lewis had 10 for the Buckeyes (3-0), who had lost three of their four previous matchups in the Challenge.
“I’m glad we took care of our part tonight,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “Now I’ll watch these games the next couple of nights (and) I’ll be a heck of a lot more relaxed knowing that we did our part for the Big Ten.”
Zabian Dowdell scored 15 points and Coleman Collins had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Hokies (5-2).
Ohio State led by as many as 21 points in the first half only to have Virginia Tech claw back with its trapping defense. After shooting 61 percent from the field in building a 46-25 halftime lead, the Buckeyes hit 29 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes.
“We had to withstand their run,” said Sullinger, who had 11 rebounds. “We learned we’ve got to stay aggressive, that when we were moving the ball we got some good looks. Then in the second half we stopped moving the ball.”
The Hokies pulled to 59-56 on Jamon Gordon’s short jumper with 2:39 left but the rest of the game belonged to Ohio State.
The Buckeyes were deliberate at the other end before Je’Kel Foster’s quick pass set up Lewis’ long 3-pointer for a 62-56 lead with 2:09 left.
Dowdell’s jumper was short at the other end, with Matt Sylvester rebounding for the Buckeyes and throwing a long pass to Lewis who was streaking toward the basket. As he released his shot, he was pushed by Dowdell, who was called for an intentional foul.
Lewis hit one of the two free throws and then Sylvester scored on a follow to make it 65-56 with just over a minute remaining.
“The only thing I was thinking was to stay aggressive,” said Lewis, a transfer from Bowling Green in his first season with the Buckeyes. “In the second half, we were stagnant and we weren’t scoring. I knew we needed a big boost from somebody—and I knew it was my chance.”
After the Hokies missed two more shots, Lewis added a three-point play and Dials hit a foul shot.
Virginia Tech was making its first road trip of season. The Hokies had won four straight since a 72-71 home loss to Bowling Green on Nov. 12.
“Our guys have to play with a chip on their shoulder—it’s not enough to just play,” Greenberg said. “We’ve got to have an attitude. That really ticks me off that we didn’t play that way in the first half.”
Dials picked up his second foul with 6:37 left in the half and Ohio State leading 29-22. The Buckeyes went on a 14-1 run with backup center Matt Terwilliger getting it started with a basket inside. Mayes added a 3-pointer and a layup, Sullinger hit two shots inside and Foster also hit a 3. Sylvester had three assists during the spurt that pushed the lead to 43-23.
“We played a lot harder in the second half,” Dowdell said. “We were passive in the first half.”
Matta said the primary goal was to get a win, but also for his team to learn something.
“Being it’s Nov. 28, some great things happened tonight. There were some things that were not so good,” Matta said. “As I told the team, we have to learn from the pluses and minuses to become a better basketball team. Our biggest travesty we can commit right now is to have a big first half and that’s it.”