Unfortunately, Bryant didn’t have its better half last night.
Even with Kobe, though, the Bulldogs might have had difficulty matching up with Ohio State.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 19 points and Amir Williams had 12 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots to lead the No. 3-ranked Buckeyes to an 86-48 victory over Bryant in Value City Arena.
Ohio State blocked 10 shots in all, forced 19 turnovers and limited Bryant to 27.6 percent shooting from the field in winning its third game this season by more than 30 points.
“I knew, just based on the athleticism of Ohio State, it was going to be tough for us,” said Bryant coach Tim O’Shea, the coach at Ohio for seven years before moving to Bryant in 2008.
“This is the best of the best. There are a few teams in the country that will contend for the national championship legitimately, and clearly Ohio State is one of them. … They play national championship-caliber defense.”
The outcome was not in doubt after the Buckeyes (9-0) increased a 12-point lead to 20 in the last three minutes of the first half and to 27 in the first four minutes of the second.
Memories were fresh of an unsatisfactory showing against Central Connecticut State on Saturday in which Ohio State’s defense was lax enough to let the Blue Devils hang within 10 points well into the second half before the Buckeyes pulled away for an 18-point victory.
“One of the things we talked about in (the pregame) shootaround was trying to sustain energy, trying to sustain effort and keeping the focus on the things we need to get better at,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “I thought we did a pretty decent job with that.”
It was the second time this season that the Buckeyes held an opponent under 30 percent shooting. The 10 blocked shots were a season high.
Ohio State led by 11 points after the first eight minutes but by only 12 after 17. But an 8-0 run in the last 21/2 minutes of the half increased their lead to 43-23 at the break. Bryant suffered two blocked shots, missed six others and had three turnovers in going scoreless the last 5:27.
“Coach was on us as soon as we came into the locker room (at halftime),” Smith said. “We had a pretty good lead, but he reminded us of last weekend (and said) the type of team we want to be in March, we have to start working on those type of things right now. Guys took that to heart, and we came out with our foot on the gas.”
Everyone got in the scoring column. Second-year walk-on Jake Lorbach had the first three field goals of his career, including a breakaway dunk and a step-back jumper from the wing.
“He was rolling,” Smith said.
Dyami Starks scored 16 points to lead Bryant (6-5), which was without injured senior point guard Corey Maynard and playing its second game in three nights. The Bulldogs lost 70-59 at Notre Dame on Monday.
“I knew (against) Notre Dame, we’d have a shot because I thought athletically we could keep up with them,” O’Shea said.
Not last night.
“Athletically, they’re an extraordinary bunch,” O’Shea said of the Buckeyes. “It’s just so hard for us to do anything around the rim because of their ability to block shots.”
The game was Ohio State’s first of four in the Gotham Classic. The Buckeyes also play North Dakota State and Delaware at home Saturday and next Wednesday, respectively, before finishing the tournament against Notre Dame on Dec. 21 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
North Dakota State won 73-69 at Notre Dame last night.