J PAT CARTER / AP Enlarge
CORAL GABLES, Fla. - A slap to the face was just what struggling Ohio State needed.
The contact during a scrum last night prompted the ejection of Miami Hurricanes scoring leader Jack McClinton, and the Buckeyes went on to erase a 14-point second-half deficit and beat the 21st-ranked Hurricanes 73-68.
"Jack is a big leader for us," Miami's Lance Hurdle said. "It's tough losing Jack."
Sophomore Jon Diebler scored a career-high 20 points and Evan Turner had 19 for the Buckeyes (4-0), who won for only the second time in seven games in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
"We were fortunate to come back, and it felt great," Turner said. "It will be a better plane ride home."
The Hurricanes (4-2) fell to 0-3 in the ACC-Big Ten series. They led 36-21 late in the first half and 38-24 early in the second but sorely missed McClinton.
The senior guard was ejected for a flagrant foul midway through the first half after he took a swipe with the palm of his hand at Anthony Crater, brushing his face. The contact came almost immediately after Crater hit McClinton in the face while guarding him.
Crater fell briefly to his knees in pain but remained in the game. The officials consulted a TV replay, then ejected McClinton.
"Obviously losing Jack hurt," Miami coach Frank Haith said. "In those situations where there's jawing back and forth, there's got to be something both ways. I don't know what happened, but it's always the second guy that gets caught."
The Hurricanes were already without reserve guard Eddie Rios, suspended indefinitely yesterday for a violation of team rules.
Guards Hurdle, James Dews and Brian Asbury went 2-for-17 from 3-point range and combined for 10 turnovers while struggling to cope with Ohio State's full-court pressure.
"Our defense was really effective because Hurdle was their only true ball-handler," Turner said. "Nobody else wanted to handle the ball. If McClinton were in the game, it might have been different."
Miami committed turnovers on five consecutive possessions, allowing the Buckeyes to run off 13 straight points - six by Evan Turner - to cut the deficit to 38-37.
The Hurricanes rebuilt the margin to eight points before Ohio State made another charge. Turner's layup with 7:28 left tied the score at 54-54, and the Buckeyes took their first lead on their next possession when Jeremie Simmons hit a 3-pointer, his first points of the game.
"When we went ahead, it was an amazing look in their eyes to see how hurt they were," Turner said. "I loved that right there."
The Buckeyes stayed ahead the rest of the way. Diebler's sixth and final 3-pointer made it 66-61.
"Our defense was not good the second half, and I think that was the difference in the game," Haith said. "We got too spread out, and our rotations weren't good. It allowed them to break us down on the dribble and get open shots."
The Hurricanes committed their 18th and final turnover in the backcourt trailing 70-67 with 25 seconds left. Simmons made both ends of a 1-and-1 with six seconds left to seal the victory.
"If we play with that kind of confidence, we're a very dangerous team," Diebler said.
Hurdle scored 14 points to lead Miami, which shot only 39 percent. Cyrus McGowan had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
McClinton, a first-team All-ACC selection last season, made three 3-pointers and totaled 12 points.
"He is one of the premier guys in college basketball," Ohio State coach Thad Mata said. "I was so impressed with him for the time he was there. It's unfortunate, but things like that are going to happen."
The Buckeyes missed seven of their first eight shots and committed five turnovers to fall behind 16-4 after 8 1/2 minutes. They shot 28 percent in the first half and trailed 36-22 at halftime.
"The big thing in the first half is we couldn't hit a shot," Matta said. "We finally made some shots, and it helped our defense."25.74924 -80.26295