COLUMBUS - One look at the stunned faces filling the stands at Value City Arena and it was easy to see that Buckeye Nation had forgotten what it was like to witness its men`s basketball team lose a game.
But that`s exactly what happened as No. 1 North Carolina snapped Ohio State`s 28-game home winning streak with a 66-55 victory Wednesday night.
Ohio State`s streak began with a 77-67 win over Wisconsin on Jan. 18, 2006, and is the third-longest in Buckeye history. Legendary Buckeyes coach Fred Taylor put together a string of 50 home wins between Dec. 1, 1959, and Dec. 2, 1964, and Randy Ayers had a run of 30 home wins between Feb. 18, 1990, and Feb. 8, 1992.
The streak coming to an end probably didn`t come as too much of a surprise everywhere else in the country as the Tar Heels (6-0) are the top-ranked team in the nation and are powered by star forward Tyler Hansbrough, one of the most dangerous players in college basketball.
"I hate to lose, so this doesn`t feel good," Buckeyes forward David Lighty said. "But there were some positives there as well. We played hard and went toe-to-toe with the No. 1 team in the nation."
Hansbrough finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds and helped North Carolina shake off the disappointment of playing without star point guard Ty Lawson, who suffered an ankle injury during the Tar Heels` last game against BYU.
While Hansbrough`s numbers were a bit under his averages, Wayne Ellington had a huge game for North Carolina. The sophomore guard finished with 23 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore forward Deon Thompson also was big for the Tar Heels, finishing with 14 points and seven rebounds.
The offense was truly offensive to start the game, as both teams shot under 30 percent through the first 12 minutes. Hansbrough was mobbed by Buckeye defenders every time he touched the ball in the early going, missing eight of his first 10 shots, getting three shots blocked and having the ball stripped while under the basket.
Things were even tougher for Buckeyes freshman center Kosta Koufos, as the 7-footer missed all seven of his first-half shots and couldn`t seem to keep pace with Hansbrough on the boards, being outrebounded by the Tar Heels star 8-2 in the first half.
"During the first half, I think both teams were so tight they just couldn`t play," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "I`d like to say we were playing good defense but let`s be honest, I think Ohio State missed a lot of shots that they would normally make."
Yet it was Ohio State (4-2) that led 32-29 at the close of the first half, thanks to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by freshman guard Jon Diebler and the overall 3-point shooting by the Buckeyes. Diebler led the way with four threes, sophomore David Lighty added a pair and senior guard Jamar Butler also hit from long range as Ohio State shot better from behind the arc (41.2 percent) than it did from the field overall (30.6 percent).
"I just knew time was running out," Diebler said of the long jumper he banked off the backboard to end the half. "I just had to get it off and I somehow made it."
The pace picked up in the second half, as Marcus Ginyard helped spark a 20-8 North Carolina run to put the Tar Heels up 49-40 with 11:31 left in the game. The 3-point shot that kept Ohio State in the game during the first half became the Buckeyes` enemy during the run, as they went 1-for-8 from behind the arc as North Carolina built its lead.
Although the Tar Heels finally came out of their hot shooting streak, the Buckeyes couldn`t seem to escape their ice-cold run.
During the middle part of the second half, the Buckeyes missed 17 straight shots as North Carolina slowly pushed their lead into double figures. Diebler finally ended the 11-minute drought with a 3-pointer at 5:33.
"We had that 10-minute stretch there in the second half where it seemed like we didn`t score any points," Diebler said. "You can`t have a stretch like that against a good team like North Carolina."
The shot seemed to spark Ohio State, as Lighty followed with a 3-pointer of his own and Diebler took a long pass from Othello Hunter after a steal and threw down a one-handed dunk to pull the Buckeyes within 57-51.
But a timeout by North Carolina, followed by a shot clock-beating 3-pointer by Ellington seemed to springboard the momentum back into the Tar Heels` favor and they ground out the last few minutes to come away with the victory.
Although Hansbrough`s offensive numbers may seem a bit lean compared to what he usually contributes, there was no doubt he made a defensive impact on the Buckeyes. Ohio State rarely went into the lane, and Lighty, Diebler and Butler took 49 of the Buckeyes` 70 shots in the game.
"We weren`t getting anything inside so we had to have good guard play," Butler said. "With Hansbrough down there, he`s one of the best post defenders in the nation and we had to try something else."
Diebler finished with a career-high 19 points, Butler added 17 points, eight rebounds and a game-high five assists and Lighty finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A BIG CHALLENGE
The Atlantic Coast Conference is unbeaten in the eight years of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, an event that pits the two leagues against each other in early season matchups. The following is a breakdown of the Challenge`s history.
YEARÂ Â Â RESULTÂ Â Â OSU RESULT
1999Â Â Â ACC, 5-4Â Â Â Did not participate
2000Â Â Â ACC, 5-4Â Â Â Did not participate
2001Â Â Â ACC, 5-3*Â Â Â OSU 64, N.C. St. 50
2002Â Â Â ACC, 5-4Â Â Â Duke 91, OSU 76
2003Â Â Â ACC, 7-2Â Â Â Ga. Tech 73, OSU 53
2004Â Â Â ACC, 7-2Â Â Â Clemson 80, OSU 73
2005Â Â Â ACC, 6-5#Â Â Â OSU 69, Va. Tech 56
2006Â Â Â ACC, 8-3Â Â Â UNC 98, OSU 89
* Michigan State vs. Virginia at the Richmond Coliseum was canceled in the second half due to water on the floor. Virginia led 31-28 after beginning the second half with a 12-0 run.
# With the expansion of the ACC to 12 teams, the Challenge expanded to include all 11 Big Ten teams, with one ACC team not participating each year. Before 2005, the Big Ten had two teams not participate in the event.