Cougars lose but learn a lot in 87-44 defeat
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Yes, winning matters to Chicago State coach Tracy Dildy.
But he also sees the benefits of taking an overmatched team into the home of a powerhouse, of testing his team against the very best.
The Cougars (3-12) hung around for a while with No. 10 Ohio State on Saturday night before the Buckeyes' depth and talent tipped the scales in an 87-44 victory.
Despite the margin, it was a memorable trip.
"In practice yesterday we had guys taking pictures of the arena and putting it on Instagram and Facebook," Dildy said with a chuckle. "It's just been a great experience. That's one of the things that's really important to our university is really making sure that our young men have a great experience. There's not a better experience than this one here."
To put it into perspective, the Cougars played before a crowd of 16,881 at Value City Arena -- 3,500 more than the attendance at their previous seven games combined.
There was only one thing, really, that Dildy wanted.
"I just wish we could have played a little better that second half just so you guys wouldn't be so bored," he said to reporters. "So I apologize for that."
Quinton Pippen, a nephew of ex-Chicago Bulls start Scottie Pippen, had 12 points for Chicago State (3-12), which fell to 0-11 away from home with its fourth straight defeat.
The Cougars' regular season is half over already with one more game to play in 2012.
The Buckeyes slowly pulled away to lead 37-24 at the half and never looked back.
After the opening 10-plus minutes, the teams were tied. Ohio State seemed to be having trouble with Chicago State's changing zone defense.
With the score tied at 14, they took the lead for good when LaQuinton Ross spun and dropped in a finger roll. Aaron Craft then went through the lane and hit a left-handed layup before Deshaun Thomas sent a hard pass to Evan Ravenel for a dunk and a 20-14 lead.
Thomas then hit a follow to push the lead to eight while the Buckeyes held the Cougars scoreless for more than 4 minutes.
After Corey Gray made a long 3 for Chicago State, the Buckeyes came right back on a Lenzelle Smith Jr. layup and Thomas' drive through heavy traffic.
Ravenel then stole the ball and made a long pass to Smith for an easy layup before Amir Williams, making his first career start at Ohio State, scored inside to make it 30-17.
The Cougars managed just three points in almost eight minutes while being outscored 16-3.
Thomas led the Buckeyes with 17 points, while Ross added 15 points, Smith 13, Amedeo Della Valle had a career-high 11 and Craft 10 for the Buckeyes (10-2), who complete an eight-game homestand when they host Nebraska in the Big Ten opener on Wednesday.
Ohio State then soared away in the opening minutes of the second half to put the game out of reach.
"They came out in the second half and they let us know, `We're the big boys.' They came and let us know, `We are a Top-10 team in the country." Dildy said. "The second half was all Ohio State."
The Cougars don't get to go home right away, either. They play at Toledo on New Year's Eve. They also play the first two games of 2013 away, at UNLV on Jan. 3 and then the Great West Conference opener on Jan. 12 at New Jersey Institute of Technology -- capping a seven-game road trip stretching from Oregon to Texas to Nevada and then to New Jersey.
Dildy said his team would learn a lot from playing in such a difficult place against a top team.
"It clearly helps us," he said. "We're a low-budget university, so we have to take guarantee games. We've got one more, then we get into our conference. We really feel good where we are going into our conference.
"Like I told our guys in the locker room, we're not going to see anyone like this anymore this year. We hope this will help us going into the conference with some type of confidence knowing that no other team in our conference has played the schedule we have played, the type of teams we have played."
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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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