Columbus, OH – Deshaun Thomas amassed 21 points and No. 7 Ohio State overcame a sluggish first half to post a 65-55 win over Winthrop at Value City Arena.
Thomas netted 14 of his total after halftime and added nine rebounds for the Buckeyes (9-1), who trailed a game Winthrop team by two points with under 15 minutes left before asserting control.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. finished with 14 points and Aaron Craft dished out five assists to help Ohio State notch its fifth consecutive victory despite shooting 38.6 percent from the field and being held to its lowest scoring output of the season.
Derrick Henry paced Winthrop (4-5) with 12 points and Joab Jerome tallied eight points and 10 rebounds for the Eagles, who hit 10-of-26 attempts from three-point range to stay close for much of the way.
"You have to give Winthrop a ton of credit. They played to win tonight," Buckeyes head coach Thad Matta remarked. "Guys were making shots that hadn't really made shots. We finally had an adjustment where we said 'guard everybody.'"
Winthrop hung tough with an Ohio State squad that struggled offensively all throughout the opening half, and claimed a 37-35 lead on a pair of baskets from Jerome -- the first a 3-pointer and the second a putback off his own miss with 14:31 to play.
The Buckeyes responded with a 9-1 run capped by a Thomas triple to go ahead by a 44-38 count with just under 12 minutes left, but the Eagles wouldn't go away just yet. Winthrop would make it a one-possession affair shortly afterward, when Henry connected from beyond the arc to trim OSU's lead to 47-44.
Down just 52-47 with nine minutes remaining, the Eagles would go cold and the Buckeyes capitalized, embarking on a 10-0 spurt that ended on a Smith layup in transition to push the margin to 15 points.
Winthrop would make one last charge, with a Gideon Gamble trey igniting a stretch of eight straight points that made it a 62-55 game with 1:03 to go, but Winthrop failed to score in the final minute.
The Eagles didn't come out intimidated either, hitting five of their first seven shots from the field and putting together a 12-2 early run to take a five-point lead midway through the first half. Christian Farmer drained a 3- pointer to snap a 14-14 tie with 10:26 left in the period, and James Bourne scored inside just over a minute later to extend Winthrop's surprising advantage.
"Everyone's mind was not right starting this game tonight," said Thomas of Ohio State's early struggles. "During practice we had a scrimmage and our problems during the scrimmage spilled over to our game."
Winthrop was up 22-18 with six minutes to play in the half, but Ohio State strung together seven consecutive points to forge ahead. The Buckeyes' edge would be trimmed to one by the break, however, after a steal and layup by Henry with 46 seconds remaining pulled Winthrop within 31-30.
Ohio State made good on 15-of-20 foul shots on the night, while Winthrop went just 7-of-12 from the foul line ... Ohio State has now won 39 straight non- conference games at home, a streak dating back to December of 2008 ... Craft registered three steals and is just three away from tying David Lighty (191) for second place on the Buckeyes' all-time list in that category ... The Buckeyes moved to 15-0 lifetime against teams from the Big South Conference.