COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Lenzelle Smith Jr. more than doubled his career high with 28 on Sunday to lead No. 5 Ohio State to a surprisingly easy 80-63 victory over seventh-ranked Indiana.
Jared Sullinger added 16 points, William Buford scored 12 and Deshaun Thomas had 11 for the Buckeyes (16-3, 4-2 Big Ten), who were coming off a loss at Illinois on Tuesday night. Several players questioned their teammates’ commitment and effort after that game.
There was no doubt about either on Sunday as Ohio State took command early and was never threatened.
Cody Zeller had 16 points, Christian Watford 13 and Jordan Hulls 11 for the Hoosiers (15-3, 3-3), who had lost at home to unranked Minnesota on Wednesday night.
Smith, who came in scoring about five points per game, erased almost every offensive high-water mark he had ever had in a game. He hit 10 of 12 shots from the field including 4 of 5 3-pointers. He also had seven rebounds, an assist and a steal.
The game was the first Indiana has played against another top 10 team since 2002 and the Hoosiers’ first visit to an opponent also ranked in single digits since 1992.
Earlier this week, Ohio State’s players vowed to pay back the Hoosiers for a 74-71 loss back on New Year’s Eve. In that game, the Buckeyes had 17 turnovers and 22 fouls. Sullinger got off just five shots from the field, Buford finished with eight points and Thomas scored just five points, due to foul trouble. In addition, point guard Aaron Craft had a career-high six turnovers.
Smith’s previous career best was 12 in that game. He had surpassed that with almost 3 minutes left in the opening half on Sunday.
The Buckeyes had the game well in hand throughout the second half after finishing the half on a 15-2 run. Yet they energized a raucous capacity crowd of 18,809 at Value City Arena with several plays in the final 20 minutes.
Sullinger wrestled the ball away from a driving Hulls and tossed an outlet pass while lying on the floor – Smith threw down a thunderous dunk at the other end to make it 47-23 with 15:23 left.
The lead never fell below 16 after halftime.
Smith had 18 at the break while hitting 7 of 9 shots from the field including 4 of 5 from behind the arc. To put that into perspective, he had never had more than four field goals in a game and had never made more than three 3-pointers.
After Indiana picked up the first points on a jumper by Hulls, the Buckeyes ran off the next seven and never trailed again. Buford, who had hit just 10 of 32 shots from the field in his last two games, made a jumper from the right corner and a 3 off an assist from Sullinger sandwiched around a Smith pull-up.
The Buckeyes had struggled while fighting heavy foul trouble in the first matchup. But they did not pick up their first foul until 10 minutes in this time.
The Hoosiers had difficulty against Ohio State’s defense and were unable to get the ball inside to Zeller or to make much of anything outside to relieve the pressure. They went almost 9 minutes without a point – missing all nine field-goal attempts with six turnovers – while the Buckeyes turned a 20-12 lead into a gaping 20-point advantage.
The win was Ohio State’s 36th in a row at home, the second-longest streak in program history.
Ohio State’s new football coach, Urban Meyer, and his staff received a loud and lengthy ovation when introduced at halftime.