Poor effort dooms ULM in 71-31 loss to No. 3 OSU

RUSTY MILLER AP Sports Writer Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Louisiana-Monroe coach Keith Richard didn't show up for postgame interviews.

Maybe he was afraid of what he might say.

Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 17 points and LaQuinton Ross added 15 to lead No. 3 Ohio State past the overmatched and undermanned Warhawks 71-31 on Friday night.

Richard benched his starters for the second half after they fell behind 41-20 after 20 minutes. None of them -- four of whom average in double figures -- saw one second of action in the second half.

Speaking through the school's sports information department, Richard more than expressed his dissatisfaction with his players and their effort.

"We came out and didn't play hard. We weren't running down the floor hard. We didn't do anything that we worked on or talked about in the shootaround, the pregame speech, the whole deal," he said in an email distributed to reporters. "The only way to make things happen is by playing hard. I'm about tired of it."

He specifically questioned the effort at different points of the game. He must have been referring to the opening 4½ minutes -- when Ohio State opened a 12-0 lead.

"It's been going on at certain times during different games," he said. "Sometimes it's at the start of the second half, sometimes at the start of the first half -- and I'm just tired of it. Those guys just aren't going to play."

Jayon James, who led the Warhawks (3-5) with eight points, along with fellow starters Tylor Ongwae, Marvin Williams, Amos Olatayo and Nick Coppola, were stuck on the bench in the second half.

Olatayo came in averaging 15.6 points a game, Ongwae 13.6 and James and Williams 10.1 apiece.

Against an Ohio State team already fifth in the nation in scoring defense (55.9 points) and 13th in field goal percentage defense (.379), the game got out of hand early and was laughably one-sided throughout the second half.

ULM hit just 19 percent of its shots from the field (10 of 54) and 17 percent on 3-pointers (3 of 18).

"We'll work through this and we'll find some guys who want to play really, really hard," Richard said. "We'll find guys that do what we ask them to do, and those that do will go up against UL-Lafayette next Saturday."

ULM takes on Lafayette on Jan. 4 at home in its Sun Belt Conference opener.

The mismatch on Friday wasn't much fun for the Buckeyes -- or an announced crowd of 18,534, many of whom left long before the final buzzer.

"The better competition, the more exciting the games are for us," Ross said. "Sometimes during the non-conference as you play some of these teams that are not as good as you are, you actually play down to (their level). That's not good for teams. That's not what you're supposed to do. Definitely when we come out in Big Ten play, it's going to be teams that are just as good as us and we're going to have to play better."

The Buckeyes open Big Ten play on Dec. 31 at Purdue.

Amedeo Della Valle chipped in with 14 points for the Buckeyes (13-0), who have won their first 13 games in a season for the fifth time in school history (1961, '62, '91 and 2011).

Smith said if the nonconference season did anything, it marked the Buckeyes as a team that no team will overlook.

"Everybody else is watching now," he said. "Everybody can't wait to knock us off in the Big Ten."

The game was never in doubt after Ohio State bolted to a 12-0 lead in the opening 4 minutes.

The Warhawks didn't score until Ongwae hit a baseline drive at the 15:34 mark.

Ross got things going early with eight of the first 12 points, hitting his only two attempts from the field, including his lone 3, and adding a perfect 3 for 3 at the free throw line.

The Warhawks finally ended a 15-0 Ohio State run to start the half -- and a scoring drought of 9:50 -- when Chinedu Amajoyi hit two free throws at the 10:40 mark.

"We're not in a good place right now obviously after the last two ball games, mentally or physically," Richard said. "This is why we have 13 guys, though, who can play -- and some of those guys played hard."

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