William Buford leads Ohio State in rout of Valparaiso

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jared Sullinger blamed it on too much turkey. Whatever the reason, No. 3 Ohio State shook off its slow start with a dizzying display at the beginning of the second half.

William Buford scored 17 of his 25 points after the break, and the Buckeyes routed Valparaiso 80-47 on Friday night.

Aaron Craft added 15 points and eight assists for the Buckeyes (6-0), who tuned up for a big home showdown against No. 6 Duke on Tuesday. Sullinger had 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Deshaun Thomas added 12 points.

Buford had four points in Ohio State's 19-2 surge right after the break, and the crowd used the final minute to serenade Michigan with derisive cheers ahead of their football game on Saturday.

The quick burst to start the second half made the outcome a formality -- and allowed the Buckeyes (6-0) to begin thinking about facing the Blue Devils in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

"From the standpoint of looking at a team like Duke, it draws back to our game with Florida," said Ohio State coach Thad Matta, referring to the Buckeyes' relatively easy 81-74 win over the Gators earlier this season. "It'll be a good challenge for us. Like the Florida game, we'll know a lot more about us after it."

Sullinger said he couldn't wait for the much anticipated game against Duke, with Value City Arena already sold out.

"We know the team coming in here on Tuesday night," said Sullinger, who also had five assists against Valpo. "And we know the team we have coming in here on Tuesday night. It should be a good battle."

The game clearly tilted at the outset of the second half. The Buckeyes brought a four-point lead into the final 20 minutes, but they quickly asserted themselves at both ends of the floor.

"We played well for a stretch in the first half," Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. "We didn't play a great 20 minutes, but I was optimistic we'd be able to play a good second half. Then we all saw Ohio State's ability to go on a quick run."

Sullinger had seven points -- including a crowd-pleasing 3 -- in the second-half surge, with Craft adding a 3 and a layup and Buford hitting two jumpers. Buford made six of his seven shots in the second half, including all three of his 3-point attempts.

"My teammates were able to get me the ball and were setting good screens for me," he said. "And I was able to knock them down today."

Jay Harris led the Crusaders (5-2) with 18 points. That was about the extent of the good news for Drew's team.

Kevin Van Wijk, a 6-foot-8 post from the Netherlands, came in averaging 17.8 points a game but was held scoreless with four fouls. No. 2 scorer Ryan Broekhoff was averaging 15.5 points and had just seven.

"We rushed a few things," Broekhoff said.

It all fell apart at the start of the second half.

The Crusaders had the ball first via alternate possession, but Craft came in out of nowhere to steal the ball out of Van Wijk's hands when he was about to score on a backdoor pass. Sullinger then popped out for a 15-foot jumper and the Buckeyes were off and running.

Lenzelle Smith Jr. hit a 15-footer, then assisted on a Buford layup before Buford passed inside to Sullinger for another bucket. After Broeckhoff hit a driving layup to break the ice for the Crusaders, Buford came off a screen to hit an 18-footer to make it 43-31. Sullinger drilled a 3 from the left elbow before Craft hit a fast-break layup and nailed a 3 from the right corner. Evan Ravenel's free throw ended the surge, putting the Buckeyes up 52-31.

The lead never dropped below 15 points again.

Ohio State has won 28 straight games at Value City Arena, matching the third-longest home streak at the school.

Sullinger was asked if the Buckeyes needed to make a lot of improvement for Duke.

"We need to just be better than we were tonight," he said.