COLUMBUS — A game-high 25 points from Bruce Thornton and a career night from Felix Okpara were more than enough for Ohio State in an 88-61 beatdown of Central Michigan on Wednesday evening in the Schottenstein Center.
Thornton connected on three three-pointers as part of his big night, the second time in the last three games he’s scored at least 25 points.
Okpara’s monster dunk in the final minutes gave him 14 points on the evening, surpassing the 12 points he tallied against Maryland last season. He added nine rebounds, finishing one shy of recording the third double-double of his career.
With the victory, Ohio State stretched its win streak to five games for the first time since the 2021-22 season.
“We gotta get a lot, lot better,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said following the game. “Give credit to Central Michigan. They were down two starters, down their best post player and second leading scorer, I believe. I give those guys credits for doing some things tonight in terms of physicality. But obviously, we had some good leadership from some guys and some really good stretches of play. And then there were some other stretches where we have to get better.”
Ohio State jumped out to a 7-2 lead through the opening three minutes of the first half thanks to a cold shooting start from Central Michigan that saw them go just 1-6.
Shots eventually began to fall for the Chippewas, and they pushed ahead for the first time on the evening on a three-pointer from Jemal Davis that gave them a 12-11 lead with 12:40 left in the half.
Trailing early and needing a spark, Ohio State got exactly what it was looking for from Thornton as he began to take over the game offensively. His three-pointer, one of three in the first half, quickly recaptured the lead for Ohio State, and he was just getting started.
A layup and a jumper added to Thornton’s personal 7-0 run, and the Buckeyes opened up an 18-12 lead midway through the half.
However, Central Michigan wouldn’t go away, and Ohio State’s lead was trimmed to 22-21 on a three-point play by Cayden Vasko late in the first half.
Just as he did earlier in the half, though, Thornton caught fire again and quickly gave Ohio State some breathing room with his second 7-0 individual run of the half. A pair of jumpers and his third three-pointer of the half pushed Ohio State to a 29-21 lead, and the Buckeyes never looked back.
“We knew his shooting was going to be good, but now the weapon that he has coming off of ball screens is tremendous,” Holtmann said of Thornton’s progression as a scorer.
Ohio State shot 56% from the field in the first half, aided by Thornton’s 7-9 performance, and outrebounded Central Michigan 20-14.
Not slowed down by the halftime break, Thornton’s red-hot shooting night continued to begin the second half. He scored four of the first six points of the half as part of a 9-0 Ohio State run to blow the game wide open at 50-29 less than four minutes into the period.
The lead grew to as many as 30 points of a pair of Roddy Gayle free throws as Ohio State cruised over the final 10 minutes. Gayle finished with 11 points, nine of which came in the second half.
Ohio State will look to extend its win streak to six games on Sunday when it hosts Minnesota (4-2) to open Big Ten play. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
Holtmann said of the challenge ahead, “I think we have a Minnesota team that’s really talented. They’re young like we are, but they’re clearly as talented as any team we’ve played.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.