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December 29, 2012

Buckeyes find their stroke

Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Following Ohio State's loss to Kansas, head coach Thad Matta wanted to make a change. But it was the alteration that his players made that was a much more welcome switch for the No. 10-ranked Buckeyes (10-2) in their return to the court.

A week after a 30.8 percent shooting performance plagued Ohio State in its loss the Jayhawks, the Buckeyes re-found their stroke on Saturday, making 56.9 percent of their shots in an 87-44 win over Chicago State at the Schottenstein Center.

"If you look at the numbers, I think shot more game-like shots throughout practice and throughout the week we had off," OSU guard Aaron Craft said "We're taking shooting a little more seriously."

Consistently putting the ball in the basket wasn't the only difference for OSU from the defeat that it suffered a week ago. Altering his starting lineup for the first time all season, Matta gave Amir Williams the first start of his college career at center, where he replaced Evan Ravenel.

Williams responded with four points, four rebounds, and one block in 15 minutes of action. Matta said that the move to start the 6-foot-11 sophomore came as a result of an improvement in practice from Williams over the past week.

"Amir had practiced very well, and truth be told, Evan didn't practice well," Matta said. "We need that position to do their job and really really be effective."

It wasn't all smooth sailing on Saturday for the Buckeyes, who found themselves tied with the Cougars more than 10 minutes into the start of the game. A 23-10 run to close the half helped Ohio State take a 37-24 lead into halftime.

The Buckeyes' momentum only carried over into the second half, where they opened the gates with a 10-2 run and stretched their lead to as many as 45 points. OSU scored 40 of its points against CSU in the paint, something that Matta admitted was on the Buckeyes' checklist heading into the game.

"That was something that we've emphasized here the last couple of days was trying to get that ball into the paint," Matta said. "We got better as the game went on with that."

OSU forward Deshaun Thomas paced the Buckeyes with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Ravenel scored five points and pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds in his return to the bench. After enduring a month-long shooting slump, Craft scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, marking the first time that the OSU point guard reached double-digit scoring since Nov. 28.

Quinton Pippen, the nephew of NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, led the Cougars in scoring with 12 points on Saturday.

With their win, the Buckeyes wrap up a non-conference schedule that saw them win 10 games at home handily, but lose their only match-ups against BCS conference opponents in Kansas and Duke. The Buckeyes will start Big Ten play on Wednesday, when they'll host Nebraska at 6:30 p.m.

"It's just all about the Big Ten now," Thomas said. "Every night is going to be a fight night and everybody's going to compete. So I think we're going to be ready and coach is going to have us ready for the challenge."



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