In an arena that encompasses more than a half-century of memories, there was one phrase that conjured up the spirit of an Ohio State victory.
Playing at St. John Arena against a dialed-in Kent State team looking to spring the first upset of its kind in 25 seasons, the 10th-ranked Buckeyes allowed a 16-2 second-half run that tied the score at 48, only to respond with a 17-0 run of their own in a 71-52 win Monday night.
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It was the first second-half adversity of the season for the Buckeyes (6-0), and when sophomore Luther Muhammad struggled to finish his thoughts on what they learned about themselves, classmate Duane Washington Jr. was there to answer for him.
"We fight," Washington said.
They had to, in a big way, and Muhammad provided the breathing room. After the Golden Flashes (5-1) erased a 17-point lead near the midpoint of the second half, Muhammad drew contact and made two free throws to regain the lead with 10:09 to play.
Then, after a missed three-pointer by Kent State’s Anthony Roberts, Muhammad created a shot and drew contact on a three-pointer. He hit all three free throws, starting the game-clinching run.
"I was just being aggressive," Muhammad said. "I wasn’t necessarily looking for that shot. I just felt as though the move I made before the shot created an open jump shot that I could make, that I’ve made before."
Kent State coach Rob Senderoff described it as the turning point. The Golden Flashes missed their next 10 shots and went 10:14 without making one as Ohio State, at one point, scored on six straight possessions.
The game was chippy. Kent State’s Roberts and Ohio State’s Andre Wesson drew double technical fouls with 5:38 left for a mini-melee that had Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann flying onto the court in his salmon-colored jacket to try to restore order.
It was loud, be it from a passionate Kent State cheering section making its presence felt despite nearly a half-dozen empty sections in the uppermost part of the arena, or bodies hitting the floor on seemingly every drive.
Befitting of the history of the arena, it was entertaining to the end — particularly when freshman D.J. Carton threw down an alley-oop dunk from Washington to put the exclamation point on the 17-0 run.
"To be honest, we needed a game like this," Holtmann said. "Our guys were unbelievable in the timeouts, talking, communicating. I was upset with some of the officiating calls, and they were the ones who probably had more composure and poise."
Ohio State has won 23 straight home games against Ohio teams since a 59-50 loss to Bowling Green on Dec. 22, 1994.