In a season full of blowouts, Florida Gulf Coast was nothing more than the next hapless victim. However, the Eagles didn’t realize they were walking into a buzzsaw in Value City Arena on Wednesday. Ohio State raced out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back on its way to a 9-0 record and convincing 83-55 victory.
Fans got their money’s worth as the game quickly turned into the Jon Diebler show. The senior sharp shooter tied a school record by making nine three-point baskets. He also scored a career-high 29 points. Diebler was 9-of-13 (all threes) from the field and actually made all of his threes in succession. Jay Burson held the three-point record by himself for 22 years. Burson made nine threes against Florida in 1988 at Madison Square Garden.
“I’m just glad that we won,” Diebler said. “The last time I hit eight 3s was at Northwestern and we lost, so I’m glad we won this time, especially my senior year. I’ll look back on this when I’m older, but right now we’ve got to get ready for South Carolina.”
“Obviously, Jon Diebler’s performance was huge for us tonight,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. “In the first half it seemed like nothing was going in for us at one point. I went with the old saying and told Jon to just keep shooting.”
William Buford added 17 points to push him over the 1,000-point plateau. He joins Diebler and David Lighty as current Buckeyes that have scored 1,000 career points. Buford also had six rebounds. Jared Sullinger added 11 points, but was a non-factor for much of the game because of foul trouble and Diebler’s hot hand. Lighty dished out eight assists. Ohio State was 13-of-28 from the three-point line.
“Sometimes you have to step back, take a breath, and think about it,” Matta said when asked about Buford eclipsing the 1,000-point mark. “This puts a guy in an elite crowd and right now Jon, Will and David all have over 1,000 points in their careers. It’s been a thrill coaching these guys.”
The closest Florida Gulf Coast got was four points. That was less than four minutes into the game when Chase Fieler connected on a three-pointer to make it 7-3. The Buckeyes answered with an 11-0 run to take a commanding 18-3 advantage. The Eagles averaged a turnover a minute during the game’s first 12 minutes. They finished with 23 for the game and made 20 field goals. Not exactly the recipe for achieving an upset, unless the objective is to upset your coach.
“I wanted to see what happens [on Ohio State’s defense] when Diebler isn’t making shots, but obviously that didn’t happen,” Florida Gulf Coast head coach Dan Balza said. “And I wanted so see what happens when you double Sullinger. But the problem with that philosophy is that they do a good job of taking care of the ball. When you have a 2-1 assist ratio as a team, like they did, it’s obvious they have unselfish guys.”
Entering the game, the talk was about how the Buckeyes would handle Florida Gulf Coast’s zone defense. The answer: like a rude houseguest. Ohio State assisted on 23 of its 32 field goals on the night and 11 of 16 in the first half.
Instead Ohio State’s defense (and Diebler) became the theme as they scored 22 points off those 23 Eagle turnovers.
Sullinger, who has turned into one of the most ballyhooed players in the country, got into foul trouble in the first half and scored just two points and got one rebound. It hardly mattered, though, as OSU led 42-16 at the break.
Diebler led the way with 15 points, making five of seven shots from behind the arc. Buford chipped in with nine points and five rebounds while Aaron Craft added five points, four rebounds and four assists. He finished the game with eight points, six rebounds and six assists.
Ohio State scored 16 points off of 14 Florida Gulf Coast turnovers in the first half. The Buckeyes made nearly as many shots (16) in the half as the Eagles had shots attempted (19). Florida Gulf Coast was only able to convert six of those shots into points. Thanks in part to Diebler’s five first half three’s, Ohio State made seven shots from downtown in the half.
The glass was another disaster for the Eagles. Ohio State had 21 rebounds, 11 offensive, compared to Florida Gulf Coast’s 12 total rebounds. On the night, the Buckeyes out rebounded the Eagles 35-25 (12-5 on offense).
The play in the paint also contributed to the Eagles’ center, Kevin Cantinol, picking up three fouls in the game’s first 20 minutes. Anthony Banks, who had drawn comparisons to Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried, was almost invisible throughout the night. He ended up with 10 points and two rebounds.
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Written by Kyle Rowland