COLUMBUS — No. 21 Ohio State shook off a lethargic opening period and gradually pulled away from Towson in the second half for an 85-74 win on Wednesday evening in Value City Arena.
Leading by just a point at halftime, Kyle Young scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half to lead Ohio State. Justin Ahrens scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half, including connecting on four of his seven three-point attempts in the final period.
Buckeye big men E.J. Liddell and Zed Key combined for 18 points, and Key finished a rebound shy of his first double-double of the season.
Towson’s Jason Gibson dropped 19 points to pace the Tigers, including a 4-8 effort from three, and three others scored in double figures in a balanced scoring effort.
Ohio State jumped out to a quick 12-3 lead with a 10-0 run that was powered by a combined nine points from Liddell and Key to begin the game.
Towson punched right back with a sizeable run of their own, connecting on three consecutive three-pointers and outscoring Ohio State 15-5 to take an 18-17 lead more than halfway through the opening half. Five-point individual spurts by both Jason Gibson and Terry Nolan Jr. helped to spur on the Towson run.
The first-half lead grew to as large as 28-21 for Towson as the opening period neared the five-minute mark, but Ohio State closed on a 12-4 in the closing minutes to take a one-point advantage into the break.
Key led all scorers with 11 points in the first half, and Liddell added nine points despite sitting for nearly half the period with two fouls.
Towson’s toughness and refusal to fade continued well into the second half as they traded buckets with Ohio State through the first five minutes. A made three-pointer by Jamari Wheeler, his first points of the evening, gave the Buckeyes a three-point lead, but Towson’s Cameron Holden answered right back with a three of his own to even the score.
Holden answered field goals by Ohio State on Towson’s next two possessions as well in a nine-point individual scoring stretch that kept the Tigers in step with the Buckeyes as the game headed towards the 14-minute mark.
Turnover issues began to creep up for Towson, however, and Ohio State capitalized on the mistakes. Four Towson giveaways in a three-minute span aided an 8-0 run by the Buckeyes for a 51-43 lead, their largest of the game. Young had six points during the run, including his second three-pointer of the game as Ohio State began to stretch the margin.
Justin Ahrens’ third made three-pointer of the game upped the Ohio State lead to 14 points with less than seven minutes remaining, and following a pair of Towson free throws, connected for his fourth long ball of the evening while being fouled. The four-point play had the Buckeyes out 73-57, and they cruised home over the remaining five minutes.
Still, Towson lingered in the final minutes, and a pair of free throws from Nicolas Timberlake cut the Ohio State lead to nine points with 3:06 to play. Solid free throw shooting by Ohio State down the stretch kept Towson at an arm’s length, however, as the Buckeyes improved to 7-2 on the season.
With the win, Ohio State extended their winning streak to three games, the first time they’ve won three consecutive games this season. The Buckeyes return to the floor on Saturday when they head back into conference play by hosting Wisconsin. Tip-off for the game is set for 12 p.m.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.