Ohio State beat Central Michigan 88-61 thanks to a 25-point performance by sophomore guard Bruce Thornton Wednesday night at Value City Arena.
The Buckeyes (6-1, 0-0 Big Ten) dominated inside against the Chippewas (2-5, 0-0 MAC), who put up a valiant effort early in the first half but inevitably could not keep up with Ohio State’s poise when scoring in the paint.
“I thought overall our inside scoring was good,” head coach Chris Holtmann said. “Two-point percentage was a really critical stat when it comes to offensive efficiency so that was good, but we still have to continue to get better at that.”
Ohio State jumped out to an early lead with the help of a strong defensive effort. After the first Central Michigan basket, the Buckeyes held the Chippewas to a scoring drought that spanned over three minutes.
With under 10 minutes to go in the first half, Chippewa’s junior guard Anthony Pritchard kept Central Michigan in the game early and posted 7 points, two assists and two steals to help cut the Buckeye lead to four.
However, three straight jump shots from Thornton gave Ohio State an 8-point lead five minutes before halftime.
Thornton finished the half with 19 points and three rebounds on 7-of-9 shooting from the field.
Six points in two minutes from sophomore center Felix Okpara helped cap off a 15-0 Ohio State run. Okpara was perfect from the field in the opening period with 10 points, four rebounds and a block, and ended the night with a career-high 14 points.
“It’s all about effort,” Okpara said. “I felt that I was able to be more aggressive and that’s what I wanted to do.”
A running floater by sophomore guard Roddy Gayle Jr., followed by two Thornton layups, opened the half for the Buckeyes, extending Ohio State’s lead to 18 points.
The Buckeyes continued to dominate defensively after the break, allowing just two Central Michigan points in the first seven minutes of second-half play.
Gayle hit seven more points for the Buckeyes, including a three-ball that began an 11-0 run by Ohio State that pushed the lead to 30 with 12 minutes left in the contest.
Central Michigan battled back late into the game, but Ohio State simply had too big of a lead. Despite a 26-13 run by the Chippewas midway through the half, the Buckeyes were still able to coast their way to victory in the final 10 minutes.
Junior forward Jemal Davis led the way for Central Michigan, notching a team-high 15 points for the Chippewas.
Freshman forward Devin Royal had a team-high 11 second-half points for the Buckeyes. It was Royal’s career high in the Buckeye uniform.
“I always look at is he doing what we needed to do in terms of rebounding the ball, switches and blocking,” Holtmann said. “He’s a gifted scorer and I think he’s going to be a very good scorer in college.”
Ohio State looks to extend its winning streak to six when it faces Minnesota at 6:30 p.m., Sunday, at Value City Arena to open conference play. Big Ten Network will broadcast.