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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 20 points and Aaron Craft had all 10 of his points in a second-half surge to lead No. 7 Ohio State past Wyoming 65-50 on Monday night.
Craft was scoreless and having a forgettable game until he began driving and scored 10 of the Buckeyes’ 13 points during an 13-4 run that turned the tide.
Amir Williams added 12 points and a career-high 16 rebounds — six more than his previous best — for Ohio State (5-0).
Larry Nance Jr., son of the former Cleveland Cavaliers star, had 17 points and 12 rebounds despite heavy foul trouble for the Cowboys (4-2).
Despite the venue and the round ball, it was clear many in the crowd had not forgotten that Ohio State’s third-ranked football team is playing archrival Michigan on Saturday. Several times in the second half, the student sections joined in a rousing rendition of “We don’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan.”
Wyoming, down as many as 10 points in the first half and 38-34 at the break, went on an 8-0 run to build a 42-39 lead with 15 minutes left.
Riley Grabau hit a pull-up 3-pointer on the break, Josh Adams added a three-point play on a dribble drive and then Nance had a free lane for a rebound dunk. That led to Ohio State coach Thad Matta calling a timeout to try to get his team back in sync.
Whatever he said worked.
The Buckeyes stormed back scoring the next six points to take a 45-43 lead on Craft’s second consecutive driving layup in traffic.
On the inbounds pass, Ohio State’s Shannon Scott got tangled with a Cowboy and appeared to shove him away with his forearm, resulting in a technical foul. Grabau hit both technical shots to tie it.
But Smith hit a 3 from the left corner to give the Buckeyes the lead to stay.
Ohio State’s defense suddenly starting taking control.
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The Pokes scored just two points from the 13:06 mark until Nance, fresh after sitting out with four fouls, hit two foul shots with 4:48 remaining.
Meanwhile, Craft — scoreless until midway through the second half — scored 10 of Ohio State’s 13 points in one span to expand the lead to 54-47. After yet another Cowboys miss, Smith poured in a 3 from the right wing and the lead was back to double digits at 57-47 with just under 6 minutes left.
Wyoming didn’t get close again.
The Buckeyes, who came in shooting just 29 percent on 3-pointers, came out blazing against the Cowboys.
Scott hit two shots behind the arc early and Smith later netted three as Ohio State went 6 of 13 on 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes. Williams patroled the paint for six points and six rebounds in the early going.
Still, the Cowboys wouldn’t go away.
The Buckeyes trailed 15-14 after Charles Hankerson Jr.’s bucket at the 12:19 mark, but then they ran off the next 11 points.
Seconds after coming in, Amedeo Della Valle hit a 3 to begin the surge. After a Wyoming miss, freshman Marc Loving hit two free throws. Backup big man Trey McDonald blocked a shot by Nance, who would finish with 11 in the half, before McDonald scored inside. Loving then hit a reverse layup and tipped in Scott’s missed layup off the glass to push the lead to 25-15 at the 8:36 mark.
Refusing to fold, Wyoming came back to score seven of the next 10 points to get right back into the game.
Smith had 12 at the break, with Nance — who got a nice ovation when he was introduced — scoring 11 for the Pokes.
It was the fourth meeting between the teams but the first since the Cowboys took a 73-67 win in late December 1995 in the Casper (Wyo.) Shootout.
Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt is a native Ohioan who attended and played at the College of Wooster (Ohio). He is in his fourth year as the head coach at Wyoming, over two stints. In between he was the head coach at Clemson 1998-2003.
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