COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Thad Matta even apologized to the fans.
So sluggish was the pace of play in his 18th-ranked Buckeyes' 60-44 victory Saturday over deliberate Delaware State that he said it was difficult for anybody to watch it."No question, I apologize," the Ohio State coach said. "I'm an impatient person and that was difficult for me. We were pressing and trapping, trying anything we could to push the tempo."Delaware State trailed for almost all the game but refused to hurry its shots, suffering five shot-clock violations. Neither team averaged even a shot a minute -- and the Buckeyes tried hard to get out and run.Matta walked into his postgame news conference, smiled and said, "Everybody, wake up."William Buford scored 18 points and carried the load in the second half to lead the Buckeyes (9-2), who slowly pulled away. David Lighty added 12 points and Dallas Lauderdale had 11. Ohio State (9-2) shot 60 percent from the field, making 12 of 16 shots from the field (75 percent) in the second half.Buford also had six assists, three rebounds and two blocked shots. He said he was simply trying to do his part with the Buckeyes still missing the injured Evan Turner."We feel anybody can score points at any point of the game," Buford said. "We all can score."Frisco Sandidge had 13 points for the Hornets (4-5), who lost their fourth in a row."The only chance we probably had to beat this team was probably not to show up," coach Greg Jackson said. "We were outmanned, out-talented across the board. To even be in the ball game is a tribute to this team."The only plan we had was to limit their possessions and keep them out of transition, and I thought for the most part our kids did that. We don't have the talent that they have."It was as close to a stall game as you'll find during the era of the shot clock. Ohio State was held to a season-low in points despite coming in 10th nationally (84.7 per game)."To hold them to 60 points is obviously a success for us," Jackson said. "We had a plan to come in and shorten the game and keep them on the defensive end as much as possible. The only chance we had was to limit possessions and take them out of areas that they like to operate."Lauderdale's dunk off an assist from Lighty gave the Buckeyes their first double-digit lead at 32-21 with 16:42 left. They maintained it for the next 10 minutes before Buford scored seven points in a row and then came up with a loose ball, feeding Jon Diebler for a 3-pointer from the left corner that pushed the lead to 50-36 with 5:16 remaining."Certain teams in the country, you get a 10-point lead and that's like a 25-point lead," Matta said, crediting the Hornets for stubbornly sticking with their plan.The Buckeyes stretched the lead to 17 on Buford's jumper, Lighty's driving layup and two foul shots by P.J. Hill. Delaware State never got closer than 14 points again."It was real tough," Lighty said. "We wanted to get up and down [the court]."Even with the Buckeyes securely on top, the Hornets continued to kill off time and wait for someone to get open."That was one of the most unique basketball games I've ever seen in my time in coaching," Matta said. "That was a tough game to be a player, or a coach."The Buckeyes are still finding their way without Turner, their leader in scoring (18.5), rebounds (11.4) and assists (6). He broke two bones in his lower back on Dec. 5 and is hoping to be back by Jan. 9 at Minnesota, although doctors first predicted he wouldn't return until early February.There was a glacial pace in the opening half as well with the Hornets patiently running their picking, passing game and waiting to shoot until late in the clock.The Buckeyes tried to pick up the pace but had eight turnovers.Jeremie Simmons sparked Ohio State, coming off the bench to get seven points with three steals and two assists. It was his back-to-back 3-pointers which turned a 7-5 Delaware State lead into a 11-7 advantage for the Buckeyes. They never trailed again.