Ohio State gave the Big Ten an early lead in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, knocking off the visiting Virginia Tech Hokies 69-56 in Value City Arena on Monday night. The Buckeyes got off to a great start, taking a 46-25 lead into halftime, but the Hokies fought back valiantly in the second half. Tech cut the Ohio State lead to three late in the game, but gave up a 10-0 run down the stretch that made the game unreachable.
Junior guard Zabian Dowdell paced the Hokies with 15 points on 4-of-10 shooting. Dowdell was 2-of-4 from three-point range and hit the only three-pointers for Tech during the game. He also led the Hokies in minutes played, spending 38 minutes on the court.
Coleman Collins won the much anticipated battle with Ohio State center Terence Dials. Dials got in foul trouble and finished the game with 11 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes. Collins registered a double-double for the second consecutive game, scoring 14 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. As a team the Hokies were outrebounded 34-28, meaning Collins had half of the rebounds for his team. He also had 11 of Tech’s 20 defensive rebounds.
Senior forward J.J. Sullinger played another outstanding game against the Hokies. Two years ago Sullinger had 22 points and 11 rebounds against Tech, and he led the Buckeyes in both categories again in this game with 14 points and nine boards. The undersized forward grabbed four offensive rebounds and went to the free throw line 11 times, hitting six of his attempts.
In the type of performance that was common last season, the Hokies played a poor first half on the road. Tech showed no defensive intensity in the first 20 minutes of play, giving up 46 points in the first half. They were also unable to get enough good offensive shots to keep up with the Buckeyes.
Ohio State shot 61% from the field in the first half and had numerous open shot attempts. The Buckeyes quickly jumped out to a 12-4 lead on a Terence Dials layup with 14:44 remaining in the first half. Virginia Tech responded by going on a 7-0 run that was capped by a Cheick Diakite layup with 12:51 remaining in the half.
The teams would play back-and-forth basketball until the 9:19 mark in the half. At that point, junior guard Jamon Gordon hit a layup that cut the Ohio State lead to 21-17. After Gordon’s basket, the Buckeyes would run the Hokies out of the gym for the rest of the half. OSU went on a 25-8 run over the final nine minutes. Sylvester Mayes hit a three-pointer with 20 seconds left in the half to extend the lead to 46-25. To add insult to injury, Tech didn’t even get off the last shot before intermission. Zabian Dowdell was pressured at the top of the key and failed to take a shot before the buzzer sounded.
In the second half, the Hokies were a much different team on the defensive side of the ball. Tech allowed just 23 points over the final 20 minutes, and just nine points over the first 13 minutes of the half. But it wasn’t enough because the VT missed some key opportunities on the offensive end.
The Buckeyes led 53-38 with 13:45 remaining in the game after a J.J. Sullinger free throw, and would continue their cold shooting streak over the next few minutes. They would not score again until the 10:11 mark of the second half. The Hokies failed to take advantage of the opportunity, turning the ball over on three straight possessions at one point.
Another opportunity came with 10:25 remaining in the game and Ohio State holding a 53-40 lead. Jamon Gordon missed a layup in the lane, and Coleman Collins missed a point-blank put back. The Buckeyes responded with a Sylvester Mayes jumper to extend the lead back to 15.
At the 4:56 mark, Zabian Dowdell was fouled while shooting a three-pointer, and he managed to convert all three free throw attempts to cut the Buckeye lead to 57-52. J.J. Sullinger missed a jumper on the other end and Coleman Collins grabbed the defensive rebound for Tech. After a timeout, Markus Sailes found himself all alone with a wide open three-point attempt from the corner. It was the best look Tech had at a three-point basket all night, and Sailes missed it badly, nearly airballing the attempt.
Despite Sailes’ miss, Tech would cut the lead to three on two different occasions. The first would come on a jumper from Coleman Collins with 3:17 remaining that cut the lead to 57-54. Je’Kel Foster responded with a jumper for Ohio State, but Jamon Gordon got the lead back down to 59-56 on a jumper from the lane with 2:40 remaining. At this point, the missed opportunities were looming large.
But Ohio State ended all hopes of a Tech comeback following Gordon‘s basket. The Buckeyes outscored the fatigued Hokies 10-0 down the stretch. OSU was given an extra possession to run time off the clock when Zabian Dowdell committed an intentional foul on a breakaway layup attempt with 1:35 to play. Ohio State would convert the mistake into three points and take a 65-56 lead, and the Hokies would never threaten again.
Virginia Tech drops to 5-2 on the season, while Ohio State improves to 3-0. Things don’t get any easier for the Hokies, who must travel to Durham to take on #1 Duke on Sunday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 8pm and the game will be televised by Fox Sports Net.