In an historic arena, Ohio State made some history of its own against North Carolina

Adam Jardy
Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. Ohio State won 74-49. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The history surrounded No. 6 Ohio State as it left its locker room at the Dean E. Smith Center on Wednesday night.

To get to the court, the Buckeyes first had to look at a sizeable photo montage celebrating North Carolina's 2005 national championship team. Then they had to hook a left at another massive montage celebrating the history of a program that claims seven national titles and down the Varsity Hallway – its official name – before passing through a tunnel and onto the playing surface.

When they did so shortly before tip, they had to dodge members of the Grammy-award-winning Sweet Canyon Rangers, who brought a mandolin, upright bass and acoustic guitar to the arena to perform the national anthem.

Then, with dozens of jerseys honoring All-Americans and championship teams hanging in the rafters, Ohio State made a little history of its own. The Buckeyes moved to 8-0 with a 74-49 win the likes of which the Tar Heels had never experienced.

Ohio State held the Tar Heels to their worst-shooting night in the history of the arena, which opened in 1986, at 27.4 percent (17 for 62). The 49 total points were the third-fewest the Tar Heels had scored on their home court, and the 25-point loss was the worst non-conference loss here and eclipsed only by a 29-point loss to archrival Duke in 2002. The win was Ohio State's biggest against a top-10 team since a 93-65 win against No. 10 Wisconsin on March 6, 2011.

And for good measure, when Ohio State outscored North Carolina by 23 points during the second half, it marked the most lopsided Tar Heels scoring deficit for a half in the arena's history.

“This was, in some ways, a unique night,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said.

He wasn't kidding. The No. 7 Tar Heels were expected to give the Buckeyes their most significant challenge to this point of the season. Instead, they became the second team to fail to crack 50 points against an Ohio State defense that saw lynchpin Luther Muhammad limited to 8:28 of playing time due to foul trouble.

No team has shot better than 37.5 percent against the Buckeyes this season. That number will be put to the test Saturday when Penn State comes to Value City Arena for the Big Ten opener, but on this night it just created consternation for the Tar Heels.

“There's a great history here,” freshman E.J. Liddell, who scored a career-high 12 points, said. “It's a legendary court right there that we just played on. I feel like since we started playing together we took their hearts and just kept playing hard.”

When the Buckeyes took the court for pregame warmups, multiple student cheering sections were already at maximum capacity. Among them was one that was roughly eight people deep located directly behind the basket Ohio State warmed up on, and it was comprised solely of risers.

Many of the students spent pregame yelling at Ohio State's players, jeering them after misses and trying to get into their heads. Many of those students were still there when the final horn sounded, but the majority of the rest of the building had filed out for the exits save for the scarlet-clad Ohio State contingent scattered among the crowd of 21,115.

Aside from the occasional “O-H” chant, it was a quiet arena as the teams played out the string.

“It feels good,” sophomore Duane Washington Jr. said of that sound. “It feels good for sure.”


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