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Published September 12, 2015
Mike Brennan sounded like a coach who expected his team to win instead of one happy that his players kept it close against a top-10 opponent.
Brennan's American University Eagles refused to take a back seat to No. 8 Ohio State for most of Wednesday night's game before the Buckeyes finally pulled away for a 63-52 win.
Brennan didn't buy into the idea that his team earned a moral victory.
"I'm just looking at our team and trying to get them better with each game," he said. "I don't think we played particularly well. We turned the ball over a ton, turnovers that we normally don't have. We're just trying to move on from this game."
Jesse Reed scored 15 points, Tony Wroblicky had 14 and Darius Gardner 10 for the Eagles (1-2), who never led in the last 23 minutes but never really went away.
"I think the difference tonight was rebounding and transition," said Gardner, a transfer from Stephen F. Austin. "We were able to stop them a few times and execute our sets in the early going, but weren't able to stop them on the fast break. We're disappointed with the outcome, but will continue to work to get better each day."
The Buckeyes (4-0) were coming off an impressive 52-35 win over No. 17 Marquette in Milwaukee on Saturday.
Up by five points at the break Wednesday despite shooting just 26 percent in the first 20 minutes, the Buckeyes stepped it up in the second half. Shannon Scott, who had 13 points to go with nine rebounds, four assists and three steals, got things going by stealing the inbounds pass to start the half and hitting a layup.
Then Scott came off a pick by center Amir Williams and tossed an alley-oop pass back to Williams for a dunk to start a 5-0 run that pushed the lead to 10 points for the first time. Lenzelle Smith Jr., starting his 79th consecutive game, hit a foul shot before Williams made a left-handed hook for a 37-27 advantage.
But not until Smith hit a 3 with 3:22 left was it clear the Buckeyes were in command. That was part of a 9-0 run that pushed the lead to 16.
Williams finished with a career-high 16 points for Ohio State, which shot just 26 percent in the opening half and finished at 36 percent. The Buckeyes forced 27 turnovers, however, and also had 17 offensive rebounds.
The Buckeyes outscored the Eagles 20-6 at the free-throw line and turned those turnovers into 26 points.
"I thought we played well tonight," said Reed. "The turnovers and key rebounds hurt us but we were right there against the No. 8 team in the country. I'm confident in my team. I think we can play with anyone."
Brennan, in his first year with the Eagles after assistant jobs at American and the past four years at Georgetown, did see some bright spots. The Eagles started three juniors and a sophomore off a team that went 10-20 last season.
"It's new for our guys," he said. "As long as we keep improving and looking at the options and getting better, each guy, each day, I think we'll be a different team a week from now, a month from now."
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP