Nick Kellogg and Stevie Taylor, roommates off the court and scoring threats on it, did all they could.
But foul trouble and a poor start conspired to doom Ohio to a 79-69 loss at No. 10 Ohio State on Tuesday night.
"The No. 1 thing, that Stevie and I and the rest of the guys talked about was not giving up, just to keep fighting," said Kellogg, whose father Clark is a former Ohio State star. "That's what we did and just kept trying to make plays when they were available. We missed a couple but with that never-quit mentality, we took a step in the right direction tonight."
Kellogg and Taylor both had 21 points for the Bobcats (1-1).
Aaron Craft scored 18 points — including eight free throws down the stretch — to help the Buckeyes hold off their neighbors.
The numbers weren't pretty: The teams combined for 55 fouls and 72 free throws, five Bobcats fouled out and there was seldom much momentum either way because of a drumbeat of stoppages of play due to foul calls.
"You have to adjust," Ohio coach Jim Christian said. "It (the new emphasis on whistling most contact) obviously gives the offense a lot of advantages, especially Ohio State, which has four guys on the perimeter who are constantly coming at you. It puts a lot of pressure on your defense in one-on-one situations."
Amir Williams had a career-high 14 points and matched a career-best with 10 rebounds for the Buckeyes (2-0), while reserve Sam Thompson had 12 points and LaQuinton Ross added 10.
Ohio State scored the first nine points, built a 12-point halftime lead and never trailed, although the Bobcats pulled close late in the game.
Trailing 64-53, Kellogg hit a reverse layup in traffic before Craft missed a layup at the other end. A long pass led to Taylor's three-point play that cut it to 64-58 with just over 5 minutes remaining.
"Nick and I are roommates," Taylor said. "We talked about just coming home and playing solid, doing whatever it is that coach wanted us to do. We did a good job of that."
After a free throw by Craft, Maurice Ndour hit a follow shot to cut it to 65-60. Williams then tipped in a miss by Ross. Off an Ohio miss, Craft hit two more foul shots to push the lead back to 69-60.
Still, the game wasn't firmly in hand until Shannon Scott drove the left baseline and flipped a pass to the right corner to Smith who hit a 3 with 2 minutes remaining for a 74-64 lead.
The Bobcats never got closer than seven points again as Craft scored nine of Ohio State's last 12 points.
"Those guys are great players," Craft said of Kellogg and Taylor. "We saw that this summer when they came in and played. They made a couple of shots early and then they started playing with a lot of confidence. Nick hit a big shot down the stretch and Stevie really carried them in the first half, keeping them in it."
The teams, just 75 miles apart, hadn't met on the court in 19 years, since the 1994-95 season. The Bobcats won that Preseason NIT game, 74-67 at St. John Arena.
Matta said his team learned something, both from the Bobcats and from the way the game was called.
"I said before the season it was going to be a little bit different," he said of the officiating. "We have to continue to adjust. They did a great job with Taylor and Kellogg of just isolating and driving and they were making some really, really tough shots."
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