COLUMBUS, Ohio - After a spirited first half, the VMI Keydets found the going tough after intermission and fell to the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, 101-74 at Value City Arena Wednesday night.
The homestanding Buckeyes (5-0), who have won 27 straight on their home floor, placed five in double figures scoring and were led by guard William Buford with 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the floor. Also hitting double figures for OSU was sophomore Jared Sullinger who collected his 20th career double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Guard Aaron Craft tallied 13 points and dished out eight assists while forward Deshaun Thomas and J.D. Weatherspoon added 11 points and 10 points, respectively.
The Keydets (3-2) were paced by senior guard Keith Gabriel who posted his third 20-point game of the year with 21 points. Senior guard/forward Ron Burks added a season-high 19 points and six rebounds and junior forward Stan Okoye scored 12 points on his way to becoming the 36th player in VMI history to reach the 1,000 point career plateau.
The Buckeyes used their dominating size advantage inside to outscore VMI 68-24 in the paint while holding a 47-24 advantage on the boards. OSU shot 67.6% for the game on 46-of-68 from the floor and also racked up 30 assists.
VMI connected on just 9-of-30 three-pointers for the game including 3-of-14 beyond the arc in the second half.
After two early ties in the opening minutes, Ohio State broke a 5-5 tie at the 17:22 mark and went on a 7-0 run capped by a layup by guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr. Keydet senior forward Michael Sparks answered with a 3-pointer on the next possession to make it 12-8. The Buckeyes countered with a14-2 spurt over a span of 1:30 and eventually built a 20-point bulge on a Sam Thompson jumper to stretch the OSU lead to 36-16 with 10:37 left in the half.
VMI was able to slice the deficit in half over the next nine minutes as center Wayne Whiting hit a free throw followed by five straight points by Okoye to start the run. Gabriel and Burks then combined for 21 of the next 23 points to help the Keydets pull within 52-43 with 1:32 remaining in the half. Ohio State took a 57-44 lead at the break as Buford led the Buckeyes with 16 points and the Keydets were paced by Gabriel (16) and Burks (11).
Ohio State pounded the ball inside after halftime while the Keydet shooting turned cold in the opening minutes. The Keydets VMI hit just two of 13 shots from the floor in the first eight minutes of the second half while the Buckeyes started out the frame with a 34-7 run capped by a Witherspoon dunk at the 9:54 mark to give OSU its largest lead of the game, 91-51.
VMI resumes play after Thanksgiving break on Thursday, December 1 when it opens up Big South Conference play at Coastal Carolina at 7:00 p.m.
Quotes - VMI Head Coach Duggar Baucom
"Things just got crazy in the second half. Bad turnovers and we couldn't find people and we didn't make nearly as many shots, either. I was disappointed the way we played overall. It wasn't very pretty, but it is what it is and we'll take what we can from it."
"I thought Ron (Burks) did a great job running the point and he scored some which was a bright spot. Hopefully that will continue. We battled, especially in the first half."
"I knew Thad (Matta) would be pretty hard on them to come and play in the second half and they did and that was the difference."
"Hopefully, we can learn from it and move on and get ready for conference play."