Buford leads No. 2 Ohio St over Miami (Ohio) 69-40By RUSTY MILLER, AP Sports Writer Thursday, Dec 22, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—People who didn’t see the game will check out the boxscore and figure Aaron Craft had a mediocre game.
In fact, he dominated.
“I go out there and just try to play my game,” said Craft, a sophomore guard. “It may not show up in the boxscore what I do, but as long as we continue to play well and win, that’s all that matters.”
Craft had just four points but set the tempo at both ends with eight assists, two steals, three rebounds and several other plays that led to points.
“He’s unbelievable!” Miami coach Charlie Coles said three times, referring to Craft. “He looks so innocent out there. He’s so good you just sit back and watch. If I can’t have him, I’m going to enjoy watching him play for somebody else.”
Ohio State coach Thad Matta, an assistant to Coles in 1995 and 1997, is perfectly aware of what his point guard means to his team.
“He’s kind of everywhere,” Matta said. “You see the other four guys watching him hawk the ball and he’s just kind of all over the other team. I singled him out during film in a positive way: `If you were all like this, they’d never score on you.”’
Deshaun Thomas added 15 points and Jared Sullinger 11 for the Buckeyes (12-1), who won their 33rd straight at home. The game was played at Nationwide Arena, home of the NHL’s Blue Jackets. The building will host second- and third-round NCAA tournament games in March.
Julian Mavunga led the RedHawks (3-7) with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
The Buckeyes ran off the first 11 points and never trailed.
On their first possession, Buford fed Sullinger with a bounce pass behind the defender for an easy layup and Ohio State was off and running. Buford hit a 3, Thomas scored on fast-break layup, Sullinger scored again on a short jumper and Buford was on the receiving end of Craft’s assist to make it 11-0.
The RedHawks were scoreless for the first 4:16, missing their first four shots with two turnovers.
After the Buckeyes hit five of their first six shots, they went into a malaise—missing 16 of the next 22.
They led 26-17 at halftime, a lead that was narrowed to just seven after Josh Sewell hit a layup for the RedHawks to open the second half.
But Ohio State sprinted away by scoring 15 of the next 17 points.
Craft was the ringleader, at one point stealing the ball from a Miami guard and going coast-to-coast for a layup. Another time he dived into cheerleaders to save a loose ball and flip it to Sullinger. Craft also assisted on three baskets in a span of a little more than 2 minutes.
All of a sudden the Buckeyes were up 43-23 and the lead was never again in doubt.
One of the loudest cheers of the night came when LaQuinton Ross, a highly touted recruit who sat out the start of the season while straightening out academic problems from high school, drilled a 3-pointer on his first possession in an Ohio State uniform.
Mavunga, the leading scorer and rebounder in the Mid-American Conference and one of just three players in the nation averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds a game, had eight of Miami’s 15 field goals. The RedHawks, playing their third game in six days, struggled most of the night on offense, hitting just 33 percent of their shots from the field and going 2 of 14 on 3-pointers.
Mavunga proved he could play with Big Ten players, however.
“I love Mavunga,” Coles said. “He came out and said, `What about me? I’m going to have 10 rebounds, block Sullinger’s shot and get 20 points.’ We just didn’t support him.”
Coles was denied his 350th career win. He is 349-294 in 22 seasons, six at Central Michigan and the last 16 at Miami, where he owns a 257-209 record.
The Buckeyes improved to 11-0 in home games this season and 78-2 against non-conference opponents in Columbus under Matta.
With the Big Ten season just around the corner, Ohio State seemed as if it were hitting on all cylinders.
“We all forget how young this team is,” Matta said of his club, which has only one senior (Buford) and one junior (reserve center Evan Ravenel). “As I told the guys, we’ve got 18 (conference) battles coming up.”
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