COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Deshaun Thomas scored 17 points and No. 10 Ohio State regained its shooting touch with an 87-44 victory over Chicago State on Saturday, the Buckeyes’ final tuneup before beginning Big Ten play.
LaQuinton Ross added 15 points, Lenzelle Smith Jr. had 13, Amedeo Della Valle had career-high 11 and Aaron Craft scored 10 for the Buckeyes (10-2), who complete an eight-game homestand when they host Nebraska in the conference opener on Wednesday.
The game was Ohio State’s first since losing 74-66 to No. 6 Kansas a week earlier. In that game, the Buckeyes played good defense and worked to get open on offense but could not hit shots — even when unguarded. They mustered just 31 percent shooting from the field (20 of 65). Against the Cougars, they hit 33 of 58 shots from the field (57 percent).
Quinton Pippen, a nephew of ex-Chicago Bulls star 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.
After hitting five of their last six shots from the field to end the half and build a 13-point lead, the Buckeyes opened the second half by making their first four attempts from the field. A 10-2 blitz at the outset of the second half swelled the lead to 47-26.
The Cougars never got closer than 17 points again.
Although Ohio State shot much better from the field, it had an awful day at the free throw line. The Buckeyes managed to make just 13 of 27 free throws. It got so bad there was derisive cheering whenever a player hit a foul shot in the second half.
With the score tied at 14, the Buckeyes took the lead for good when Ross spun and dropped in a finger roll. Craft then slashed through the lane and hit a left-handed layup before Thomas blistered 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 tossed in a long 3 for Chicago State, the Buckeyes came right back on a layup by Smith and Thomas’ drive through heavy traffic. Ravenel then stole the ball and fired a long pass to Smith for an easy layup before Amir Williams, making his first career start in his 41st game, scored inside to make it 30-17.
The Cougars managed just three points in almost 8 minutes while being outscored 16-3.
The Buckeyes got several layups — which were hard to come by against the Jayhawks a week earlier — while shooting 55 percent in the opening half (16 of 29).
Thomas had 12 points and Smith 11 for the Buckeyes, who held a 20-11 edge on the boards and outscored the Cougars 13-0 in fastbreaks and 8-0 in points off turnovers.
Craft hit double figures for the first time since scoring 11 in a 73-68 loss at Duke on Nov. 28 — the Buckeyes’ other loss before falling to Kansas a week earlier.
The game was played on a new hardwood court at Value City Arena. This one features the outline of the state of Ohio underneath the Ohio State logo at midcourt.
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.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.