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Published: Sunday, 1/9/2005

Dials sets tone for Buckeyes

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Matt Sylvester (40) and his Ohio State teammates held Iowa's Jeff Horner to nine points. Matt Sylvester (40) and his Ohio State teammates held Iowa's Jeff Horner to nine points.
CHRIS PUTMAN / AP Enlarge

COLUMBUS - Iowa coach Steve Alford knew that in order to beat Ohio State, the 14th-ranked Hawkeyes would have to contain the Buckeyes' 3-point shooting and limit Terence Dials' touches in the post.

"We didn't do either one very well," Alford said. "We didn't stop Dials inside, or their 3-point shooting."

The Buckeyes hit 12 of 28 3-pointers and Dials scored a team-high 22 points as OSU trounced the Hawkeyes 81-69 yesterday before 14,824 fans in their Big Ten home opener at Value City Arena.

"Obviously, I was proud of the way we came out and played today," said first-year Ohio State coach Thad Matta. "This, I think, was a very good win for our team. We did a nice job, both offensively and defensively."

The Buckeyes (12-3, 1-1 Big Ten) hit 8 of 17 3-pointers in the opening half to build a 47-32 lead at the intermission against the Hawkeyes (12-3, 0-2), who suffered their second conference loss in four days.

Senior guard Tony Stockman and junior backup guard Je'Kel Foster combined for five 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes as Ohio State put together a 12-0 run after Iowa had tied the score at 24-24.

The Buckeyes outscored the Hawkeyes 23-8 over the final

8:29 of the half.

"That was probably our best half of basketball we have played for an extended period of time, but there are still things we can do better," Matta said.

Stockman hit 5 of 7 3-pointers for 19 points and Foster made a career-high 4 of 7 off the bench for 12 points to help Matta pick up his first coaching victory in the Big Ten.

"I credit Terence Dials for our looks outside the arc," Foster said. "Their coaches watched film of him and have seen the stat sheets and know what he can do, so I think they tried to stop him with the double teams, which opened up the outside shots for us."

The Buckeyes have made at least 10 3-pointers in six games this season and they improved to 12-1 when scoring 70 or more points. Stockman also moved into eight-place on the school's all-time list with 116 3-pointers.

"We came out aggressive and made shots when we had to," Stockman said.

The Buckeyes forced Iowa to commit 16 turnovers, including 10 in the first half.

"We did a good job of pressuring from the start and forced them to make turnovers that we converted into points," Foster said.

With 6-11 Erek Hansen on the bench most of the second half Dials - a 6-9, 255-pound junior center - took advantage of the mismatch, scoring 16 points against Iowa's smaller tandem of Doug Thomas and Greg Brunner, who are both 6-7.

"I give Terence a lot of credit," Matta said. "He wasn't selfish. He let the game come to him. And he took advantage of most of his scoring chances."

Dials, who has scored 20 or more points in seven games this season, made 8 of 12 shot from the field and 6 of 7 free throws. He also pulled down eight defensive rebounds while playing a team-high 37 minutes.

"I have more confidence this year than I did last year," he said. "I can play a lot longer now and that has to do with being in shape. Coach Matta came in and got me in shape, and I'm a much better player for it."

The Buckeyes, who had their six-game winning streak snapped in an 85-61 Big Ten road loss to No. 1 Illinois on Wednesday, shot 47.5 percent (29 of 61) from the field and 42.9 percent from 3-point range against the Hawkeyes, who lost to Michigan 65-63 in their league opener at home.

Iowa, which had won four of its five previous games against the Buckeyes in Value City Arena, pulled to within nine points at 56-47, but the Hawkeyes - led by Pierre Pierce's 31 points - could get no closer.

"We just kept the mentality that we can't get down on ourselves when times get tough," Dials said. "In the past, when things got tough, we would get out of our system. When we regrouped and got back into our system, we built a lead and never looked back."

OSU, which improved to 63-30 in Big Ten openers, never did get a handle on Pierce. He hit 12 of 20 shots from the field, but his other nine teammates were a combined 12-for-33.

"I think Pierre Pierce is a great player and we didn't have an answer for him at all," Matta said. "But we were able to contain their other guys just enough to win the game."

Contact Ron Musselman at: mussel@theblade.com or 419-724-6474.



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