Updated Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 11:31 PM
UNCASVILLE, Conn. — After watching Washington on film, Ohio State assistant coach Chris Jent approached Deshaun Thomas, the team's star player.
Jent had noticed the Huskies typically switch defenders when opponents set ball screens, so he implored Thomas to "roll real hard" in those scenarios, which would hopefully leave a smaller player guarding the 6-foot-7 Thomas.
The pregame preparation paid dividends as Thomas' sensational first half sparked fourth-ranked Ohio State to a 77-66 victory over the Huskies in front of a quiet crowd at Mohegan Sun Arena in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.
The Huskies (2-2) now have lost six consecutive games against top-10 opponents, their last victory coming March 20, 2010, when they defeated No. 8 New Mexico 82-64.
Thomas, one of six members of The Associated Press' preseason All-American team, had 21 points in the first 14:09 and finished with a game-high 31.
He scored in a variety of ways: driving past defenders for layups, making 15-foot jumpers, scoring from down on the block, even connecting on a bank shot.
Scott Suggs began guarding Thomas, but as Jent predicted, the Huskies alternated defenders.
"It was just a mismatch," Thomas said.
Said UW coach Lorenzo Romar: "It was just one of those nights. He had a great night."
Romar compared Thomas to Washington State's Brock Motum, a 6-foot-10 senior forward from Australia who made first-team All-Pac-12 last season.
Still, the Buckeyes (3-0) received contributions from other players, too, most notably point guard Aaron Craft, who had 18 points, including 10 in the second half when he made all eight of his free-throw attempts.
In Ohio State's first three games, Craft has only three turnovers in 107 minutes, including one in 36 minutes Sunday. Thomas and Craft were among the 50 players named to the Wooden Award and Naismith Award preseason lists.
C.J. Wilcox led UW with 18 points, while Abdul Gaddy had 15. Wilcox's three-pointer with 7:28 remaining cut the Buckeyes' lead to 63-56, but the Huskies didn't get any closer.
Romar was disappointed with his team's hustle in the first half, pointing out that Ohio State got to many more loose balls than UW and citing the Buckeyes' eight offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Ohio State committed only one turnover and went ahead 41-31 at halftime.
Still, Buckeyes coach Thad Matta called UW "a very, very well-coached and very, very talented basketball team." Matta wanted to force the Huskies into running set plays instead of getting out in transition, but UW shot well, connecting on 47.9 percent of its field goals and making 9 of 18 three-pointers.
"They're a good basketball team," Romar said. "I thought we were competitive tonight. But we're not playing just to be competitive."
Afterward, the Huskies boarded a flight from Hartford and were expected to arrive in Seattle early Monday morning, completing a cross-country trip that helped ease some doubts following the one-point defeat Tuesday against Albany. Saturday night, the Huskies blew a 16-point halftime lead, but won 84-73 in overtime over Seton Hall.
Washington returns to action Saturday at 4:30 p.m. against Colorado State, the beginning of a stretch in which it plays seven of the next eight at home, with the lone "road" contest coming at Seattle University.
"I'm not really looking in the past," Gaddy said. "I'm kind of looking to the next game. That's how we are all looking. If we do what we're supposed to do and take care of the games we're supposed to take care of, we'll be fine."
|OHIO STATE 77|
Attendance: NA. Officials: Brian O'Connell, Mike Kitts, Robert Adams.
FRED BECKHAM / AP
Washington's Aziz N'Diaye (5) goes up strong against Ohio State's Evan Ravenel on a night he had nine points and 11 rebounds. The Buckeyes had a 34-28 rebound edge.