By Rusty Miller
COLUMBUS: Junior forward LaQuinton Ross broke out of a frigid shooting spell by scoring 17 points Friday night and No. 7 Ohio State rode a 19-point first-half run to a 99-64 victory over North Florida.
Amir Williams and Amedeo Della each hit career highs for the Buckeyes (6-0), with 18 and 17 points, respectively. Aaron Craft added 16 points, making his first 3-pointer of the season, while Lenzelle Smith Jr. had 10.
Beau Beech and Dallas Moore each had 14 points and Charles McRoy 11 for North Florida (4-4), which fell to 0-16 against ranked teams and 0-6 against teams in the Top 10.
It was the 100th collegiate win for Craft and Smith, who reached that figure in 119 games — faster than any Ohio State player.
Ross made 6-of-9 shots from the field and 4-of-7 3-pointers after struggling all year to find his shot. He had a terrific run in the NCAA Tournament a year ago, coming off the bench to give the Buckeyes instant offense on the way to the regional championship game.
This year he was expected to replace departed Big Ten scoring leader Deshaun Thomas, but came in shooting 22 percent from the field and averaging 6.2 points a game. In the past three games he was 2-for-20 from the field including 1-for-8 behind the arc.
But he came out cool and confident against the Ospreys. He made all four shots from the field — including both 3-pointers — and picked up 10 points in the opening half as Ohio State built a 48-29 lead.
The Buckeyes, who came in shooting 42 percent this season, were hot from the outset. They made their first eight shots from the field and ended the half 19-of-27 for 70 percent.
They finished 36-of-52 on field goals for 69 percent.
North Florida made its first three shots from the field to build a 6-5 lead, but then went scoreless for more than 6 minutes and the Buckeyes ran off 19 points in a row to take the lead for good. The Ospreys were 0-for-8 from the field with six turnovers. In that same span, Ohio State made 7-of-8 shots from the field and had two turnovers.
Craft had three layups, Williams and Smith Jr. each had five points and Ross made a 3-pointer in the spurt.
North Florida came back to score 14 of the next 18 — Beech made two 3-pointers and Davenport added one — to cut the lead to 28-20.
But with freshman Marc Loving scoring five points, Ross making a 3-pointer and another perimeter jumper, and Craft scoring on a left-handed scoop shot while getting knocked to the floor, the Buckeyes pulled away again.
Already ahead by 19 at the break, Ohio State put it out of reach by scoring 11 of the first 13 points in the second half to swell the lead to 59-31. Ross had four points in that early rally.
It was the second game between the teams, with the Buckeyes winning 85-50 at home on Nov. 21, 2011.