COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Jae’Sean Tate scored 21 points and pulled down 10 rebounds as Ohio State overcame cold shooting and some ugly play to beat North Carolina Central 69-63 Monday night.
Ohio State (2-0) struggled for much of the game and let the Eagles hang around. The Buckeyes shot just 46.4 percent from the floor and were lucky to get away with the victory over the less-talented Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team.
“We just didn’t come out ready to play today,” Tate said.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, North Carolina Central (0-2) was sloppier, committing 20 turnovers and losing two players to fouls, including point guard Dajuan Graf.
Patrick Cole carried the load for the NCCU with 26 points. Ron Trapps added 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Freshman center Micah Potter added 11 points on 3-for-4 shooting from the 3-point line for the Buckeyes, and Keita Bates-Diop had nine.
“I didn’t like a whole lot of what I saw tonight,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said.
Ohio State led 31-29 after a slow start by both teams in the first half. The Buckeyes had a 12-0 run and led by as much as 21-11 with 9:17 left in the first, but allowed North Carolina Central to slowly climb back. The Eagles briefly had a lead until Tate hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the half. They cut the lead to five with 40 seconds left.
“Hats off to Ohio State. They made some significant plays at significant time,” NCCU coach LeVelle Moton said. “I thought we did enough to win the basketball game.”
North Carolina Central led 32-31 with 18:46 to go in the game, but the Buckeyes slowly pulled away.
“We’ve got Providence next, and if we come out like that it’s not going to be pretty,” Tate said . “We know from last year that these early games count. We can’t just be lackadaisical. We have to come out there and be the first team to punch the other in the mouth.”
Ohio State starting forward Marc Loving sat much of the first half after picking up two fouls in the first 1:15 of the game. He finished with three points.
North Carolina Central: If there’s such thing as a moral victory, the Eagles got one by staying with the Buckeyes for most of the game. In the end, the best the Eagles got from the trip to Columbus was a chance to hone their game against a more-talented team. They nearly pulled off the upset.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes were put on notice that this year’s version still needs a lot of work. Fortunately there are more tune-up games before conference play begins after Christmas.
“We weren’t physically and mentally very tough,” Matta said. “Obviously, we have to get that corrected.”
Starting point guard JaQuan Lyle sat most the second half Monday in favor of C.J. Jackson. He finished with five points. Lyle also sat most of the second half of last week’s win over Navy.
North Carolina Central plays Wednesday at Western Carolina.
Ohio State stays home to play Providence Thursday night.