Day-after-Thanksgiving games have a tendency to make teams play like a guy lying on the couch after dinner the day before.
In other words, fat and lazy.
That’s why North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll was suspicious after seventh-ranked Ohio State defeathered his Ospreys 99-64 yesterday at Value City Arena by making 69.2 percent of its shots, the sixth-highest percentage in school history.
“With Thanksgiving, and obviously the players having the opportunity to go over to (coach Thad Matta’s) house for (dinner), I really would love to drug-test the turkeys and see exactly what he put inside,” Driscoll said. “Obviously, this is the best they’ve shot all year long, and unfortunately, we helped them get to that percentage.”
After having not made better than 42.3 percent of their shots in their previous four games, the Buckeyes (6-0) had their most accurate 40 minutes from the field since a 71.4 percent night against Presbyterian six years ago.
Their 14 three-pointers were their most in a game since they had 16 against George Mason in the 2011 NCAA tournament. Amedeo Della Valle had five three-pointers and a rejuvenated LaQuinton Ross had four, both career highs.
They were among five Buckeyes who scored in double figures. Amir Williams led with 18 points, his third career high in five games, and Ross and Della Valle had 17 each. Aaron Craft scored 16, including his first three-pointer of the season, and Lenzelle Smith Jr. finished with 10 points.
Craft and Smith, both seniors, won their 100th game as Buckeyes, getting there faster (in 119 games) than anyone else in program history.
“We just really wanted to come out and make the most of this opportunity,” Craft said. “We wanted to find a way to put 40 minutes together, something we hadn’t really done yet this year. We wanted to get out to a fast start.”
They did that, making their first eight shots against a zone defense that quickly morphed into man-to-man, to no avail.
Trailing 24-6, the Ospreys (4-4) fought back to 28-20 against a loose OSU defense that included four players off the bench. But with the regulars back in, the Buckeyes widened their lead again, to 48-29 at halftime, and then started the second half with a 14-2 run. They led by as many as 37 points in the final minutes.
“When guys see other guys make shots, it boosts everyone’s confidence. It makes everybody think, ‘Why can’t I be the guy to make the next shot?’ ” Smith said. “Coach has been on us to make your open shots.
“I think everybody has a little Coach Matta inside their head saying, ‘You’d better not miss this shot.’ ”
The most welcome breakout came from Ross, who had been missing shots and forcing plays for weeks. He came into the game shooting 22.7 percent from the field, but made all four of his attempts in the first half and finished 6 of 9 for the game.
The 17 points were the most he has scored since raising expectations for himself with 17 points against Iowa State, 17 against Arizona and 19 against Wichita State in the NCAA tournament last season.
“I think he probably was humbled a little bit the way he shot the ball the last few games,” Matta said. “It was great to see the ball go in for him.
“We need that position to produce. Hopefully, this boosts that confidence a little bit.”
Beau Beech and Dallas Moore had 14 points each for North Florida.