COLUMBUS, Ohio – Bryant coach Tim O'Shea used to coach at Ohio University, about 80 miles from the state's dominating presence, Ohio State.
From that neighborly acquaintance with Buckeye mania, he knew what his team was in for when it went up against the country's third-ranked team.
"For our level, we're a good team," O'Shea said. "We'll contend in our league for a championship; they're going to contend for the national championship."
Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 19 points as the Buckeyes pulled away early for an 86-48 victory over the Bulldogs on Wednesday night.
Amir Williams added 12 points and nine rebounds for the Buckeyes (9-0), who rolled from the led for all but the opening minute of the early round game in the Blackrock Gotham Classic. It will conclude on Dec. 21 with the Buckeyes meeting Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden.
The Bulldogs (6-5) hung around with the Buckeyes for a while, but then went scoreless over the last 5:25 of the first half and watched the Buckeyes close with an 8-0 run to take a 43-23 lead. Ohio State then scored the first five points of the second half before Dan Garvin's layup ended a drought of 6:40.
By then, it was all over.
"That's the reality of college basketball. We don't really subdivide like in football into I-AA and all that," O'Shea said. "In basketball, there is a level that is not official, but the truly elite of the elite. And of course, Ohio State is one of those teams."
Ohio State has lost focus from time to time against lesser teams after it has taken a big early lead. Not this time.
"That was one of the things we talked about in shootaround — trying to sustain intensity and effort and to keep the focus on the things that we need to get better at," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "We did a pretty decent job with that."
Dyami Starks had 16 points for Bryant, which was playing its second game in three nights. The Bulldogs lost at Notre Dame, 70-59, on Monday night.
Starks came in averaging 22.1 points a game, eighth-best in Division I. He had scored at least 20 in five games and 30 in three others. But he was held to 5-of-15 shooting from the field.
He was aware that Ohio State has one of the best defensive guard tandems in the nation in Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott.
"Going in, obviously, as an individual you take that challenge on and you say, 'Hey, this is going to be a fun game,'" Starks said. "At the same time, you've got to say, 'You know what, let's let ball movement and my teammates do the work instead of me having to go one-on-one against one of the best defenders.' I felt like the only time when I had a good advantage was in the open court, when I could get a full head of steam."
The Buckeyes led 8-7 early and then scored 14 of the next 18 points to take command. For the game, they shot 52 percent (32 of 61). They hit 8 of 20 3-pointers (40 percent).
With Ohio State denying points inside or off the break, Bryant shot 28 percent from the field (16 of 58). It was 6 of 24 from behind the arc.
The Bulldogs dropped to 0-5 all-time against Big Ten opponents. Talk about a tough schedule: They played preseason No. 1 Indiana in the opener a year ago — in their first official game in Division I. They lost that game 97-54.
"My thing in the locker room afterward with my guys is, 'Look, we've got a big game on Saturday when we play the Naval Academy at home,'" O'Shea said. "We have to let this one go and move on."
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