Zone, energy help CCSU hang with No. 5 Buckeyes



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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Even though his team lost, Central Connecticut State coach Howie Dickenman felt it turned a corner.

The Blue Devils stayed within striking distance for most of the game before falling 74-56 to No. 5 Ohio State on Saturday night.

"At some point, good teams get a turning point in their season," said Dickenman, in his 18th season with the Blue Devils (2-6). "We've been preaching to our team that we're getting better, that we're going to be good. I told our kids this was a turning-point game for us."

CCSU trailed by eight points with 13 minutes left before the Buckeyes pulled away with a 10-0 run. LaQuinton Ross, who scored a career-high 23 points, had the final four in the spurt that finally put the Blue Devils in the Buckeyes' rearview mirror.

The game plan was simple for CCSU.

"The concern was we could get blown out," Dickenman said. "I said to our players, `Michigan played Houston Baptist today. They tried to run with Michigan and they lost by 50 points or so (107-53). Colgate had a game plan against Georgetown, to take good shots, play solid defense and be patient on offense and they lost at Georgetown by 6 (61-55).

"We kind of used that as an example. If we run with them, we could get blown out. If we're patient and take good shots, we'll see what happens at the end of the game."

The Blue Devils followed the plan. Their 3-2 zone befuddled the Buckeyes. They got back quickly to snuff Ohio State's transition game. And they took their time on offense, working for good shots while shooting 46 percent for the game.

The Blue Devils scored six of the last eight points in the first half to cut a 14-point deficit to 38-29.

"It was sarcasm and angry at the same time," Ross said of coach Thad Matta's halftime talk in the locker room. "He tried to keep cool because he feels like we're a veteran team and some of the mistakes we were making we shouldn't have made. I know for a fact he was upset. I think the whole team knew it."

The Buckeyes still had difficulty finishing off the pesky Blue Devils in the second half.

The lead hovered around 10 points until Ohio State broke free from a 49-41 lead with a quick run. It started with a steal by Amedeo Della Valle that led to Lenzelle Smith Jr.'s dunk. After a CCSU miss, Sam Thompson hit a baseline jumper and, following a Blue Devils turnover, Aaron Craft fought through the traffic in the lane for a spinning layup that made it 55-41 _ matching Ohio State's biggest lead to that point.

Soon after, the Buckeyes forced a shot-clock violation and Ross muscled inside for a bucket. He then stole the ball near midcourt and drove coast to coast for another layup and an 18-point lead.

The Blue Devils, who were led by Faronte Drakeford's 12 points and Matt Mobley's 10, never seriously threatened again.

"On Tuesday night we play the University of Hartford at home and I think we'll benefit from playing with this amount of energy and this intensity," Dickenman said.

___

Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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