Buckeyes barely stay unbeaten, 54-51
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—When Thad Matta’s old team went up against his current team, it all came down to one flick of the wrist.
Gordon Hayward misfired on a lunging, off-balance 3-pointer with a second left, preserving No. 21 Ohio State’s 54-51 victory over Butler on Saturday. It was the 11th straight win for Ohio State (6-0), counting last season’s run to the NIT title.
Matta, a 1990 Butler grad, played and was an assistant at Butler and then went 24-8 in his lone season as head coach of the Bulldogs. He’s 111-22 in his fifth year at Ohio State and 213-66 at Butler, Xavier and OSU.
“When you’ve been so many different places, for me Ohio State is home,” Matta said. “I really didn’t think about Butler as much as I thought about what a great basketball team they have and we’re going to have to play really well to win the game. I’ve never been a guy that this is personal. If we were playing the Celtics today, I would have just wanted us to play our best basketball.”
The Buckeyes didn’t play their best, but they played good enough to hand the Bulldogs (8-1) their first loss of the season.
Evan Turner scored 14 points, including the go-ahead basket, to provide what meager offense the Buckeyes had down the stretch.
Coming off big road wins against ranked Miami and Notre Dame, the Buckeyes looked sluggish after having the week off for final exams. They built a 13-point lead early in the second half, then missed seven of their next eight shots. They had just one field goal in the final 12 minutes.
David Lighty added 10 points and Dallas Lauderdale had nine points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots for Ohio State, which struggled at the line. The Buckeyes made 16 of 28 foul shots, missing four of their last five after Turner hit their last field goal.
Ohio State won despite scoring four points over the last 6:49.
“In college, big players make big plays at big times,” Lauderdale said. “That’s what we needed to do.”
Freshmen Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack led Butler with 25 and 13 points, respectively, scoring the Bulldogs’ first 16 points of the second half. Mack had seven assists, while Matt Howard—who raked the Buckeyes for 23 points in a home win a year ago—had 11 points and 10 rebounds. The Bulldogs had 19 turnovers, several without a defender figuring in the play.
After two 3s by Heyward had pulled Butler even at 51 with just under 4 minutes left, Turner pump faked and hit a 10-footer in the lane to put the Buckeyes ahead 53-51 with 3:08 remaining.
After Lauderdale hit the first of two foul shots with 1:03 left, Hayward missed a 3 with 48 seconds remaining. The Buckeyes ran off time until Turner missed a shot in the lane with 14 seconds left.
Butler called a timeout with 9.7 seconds left and then set up for the potential tying shot.
“It wasn’t a great look, obviously, but with limited time (and) the way that they play that zone, it’s tough to get a great look right there,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “They did a good job. They’re used to spreading out and taking away those open looks. That zone is obviously effective. It’s not a coincidence that teams are shooting what they’re shooting (35 percent).”
The Bulldogs worked the ball around, with Zach Hahn throwing a pass to Heyward who had to force up an off-balance, leaning 3 that missed the mark while he was being pressured by Lighty.
“It was obvious they were going for a 3,” Turner said. “Maybe it could have been a foul, but we’ll take it.”
Stevens is 38-4 in his two years as head coach after being brought into the program from the private business sector by Matta when he was head coach of the Bulldogs. Stevens said it wasn’t easy playing against his mentor and friend.
“It’s hard. You root for them obviously really hard,” he said. “It’s not as enjoyable as maybe playing other games.”