COLUMBUS, Ohio - Sophomore forward Jared Sullinger was kept off of the scoreboard for the first 10:34 of Monday night's game against North Florida (1-4) but quickly found his stroke en route to 27 points and 13 rebounds as Ohio State (4-0) easily pulled away from the Ospreys to stay perfect on the season with a 85-50 win at home.
DeShaun Thomas had 16 points for Ohio State to go along with six rebounds and Jordan Sibert had 13 coming off of the bench. William Buford struggled from the field going 4-13 in scoring only seven points and Aaron Craft was largely an afterthought when it came to the role of scorer with only two points but still had three assists and three steals for Thad Matta's Buckeyes.
Ohio State got off to a slow start and North Florida did its best to capitalize only trailing three points at the 10:51 mark. The Buckeyes are in the middle of a stretch of four games in eight days and that means less practice in preparation for each of these games with such a quick turnaround.
"One of the things that we wanted to do was get off to a good start and I am not exactly sold that we got off to the start that we particularly wanted," Matta said. "I had to get on some guys in a time out in the first half and I thought we really responded from that."
The Buckeyes were held close for most of the first half and didn't expand the lead into double digits until the 5:56 mark after a pair of Sullinger free throws. Trips to the charity strike were not all that charitable on the evening with Ohio State starting off 1-5 from the line and ending up a non-respectable 25-40.
We didn't come out with (any) juice, no energy, no intensity," Sullinger said. "We kind of came out there expecting to win and just walk out there and say, 'hey, we are Ohio State... back down.' We realized that this team wasn't scared to play and they came out and were ready to play. Obviously it showed in the first half."
Ohio State did eventually open it up late in the half and would take a 19 point lead to the locker room and added ten points to that lead in the first five minutes of the second half.
"I am feeling good about it," Lenzelle Smith, Jr. said. "I just feel better about some of the things that we were successful on offensively as a team today. Some things clicked for us, at first it didn't and then we came back out at halftime and then things started working."
The Bucks were able to find a great amount of success in the paint as the team outscored North Florida by a 44-20 edge and also were able to turn 23 UNF turnovers into 25 points. But ultimately things started to shine for OSU when the Bucks allowed Sullinger to take over.
"It was one of those games where it is kind of selfish of me but at the same time it is something that coach Matta wants to see," Sullinger said. "Me take over a basketball game and not always passing out of the post, it was just one of those days."
Thomas was another beneficiary of getting the ball down low.
"Coach always says that we can get good shots when we get it inside," Thomas said. "When we throw it at Sully and myself the percentages are up. It was one of our goals. We are trying to be a great three-point shooting team but inside is working really well right now."
North Florida was able to chip back against the Buckeyes when Matta had his five starters on the bench but at the 10:33 mark the Bucks brought the bigs back in and put an end to the Osprey run.
"I was hoping he wasn't," UNF head coach Matthew Driscoll said. "We cut it to 21... we made some stops and got some plays and the next thing you know, Thad put those other jokers back in."
The Buckeyes remain cold from beyond the arc, going 4-17 on Monday night and on the season shooting just a tick above 27-percent.
"They shoot them well in practice percentage-wise and I think it is one of those things where it hopefully becomes contagious," Matta said. "Much like William (Buford) was not shooting well it the first few games of the year and then all of a sudden then he ends up shooting almost 48-percent from three. If he can get there sooner than later then I would be happier."
Matta's team has won 26 straight games dating back to a win over Michigan in 2010 and will be looking to add to that streak on Wednesday against VMI at Value City Arena with a 7:00 pm (ET) tip.