Russell's 21 lifts No. 12 Ohio State past A&T, 97-55
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) In its first game against a North Carolina school, No. 12 Ohio State did all right.
The next one will be a truer test.
D'Angelo Russell scored 21 points and Marc Loving had 15, leading the Buckeyes to a 97-55 victory over North Carolina A&T on Wednesday night.
The win set the stage for a showdown with No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday.
''Obviously, (North Carolina is) a tremendous team,'' coach Thad Matta said. ''A lot like a Louisville, they're going to really try to pound the ball inside on us and rebound it. We've got to do a great job with that.''
The Buckeyes (9-1) hope this matchup with a ranked team turns out better than the last one. They were down by 19 at the half at No. 5 Louisville on Dec. 2 and rallied before falling, 64-55.
''We're a smarter team now. We've been in big games before,'' said Shannon Scott, who had 12 assists and seven steals to go with eight points against A&T. ''We know what we did and what we shouldn't do in this game. And we know the things that we did that can help us out. We'll be ready.''
Of course, the game against the Tar Heels carries extra significance for Scott, whose father, Charlie, ranks among the great players at North Carolina.
''I can't make it any (more important) than any other game we play this year,'' he said.
Kam Williams added 15 points in the second half for the Buckeyes, who hit 69 percent of their shots after the break to finish at 57 percent (35 of 62) from the field.
''They scored 40 points off turnovers - and that's unacceptable,'' said A&T coach Cy Alexander. ''They got a lot of points in the second half off of our inability to stay disciplined versus pressure.''
The Buckeyes broke out to leads of 10-0 and 17-2 but A&T scored 12 of the next 18 points to pull to a nine-point deficit.
Up 39-26 at the half, the Buckeyes came out of the gate in a hurry in the second half, scoring 13 of the first 15 points to pull away.
Bruce Beckford had 26 points and Arturs Bremers 14 for the Aggies (1-11), who have lost 11 in a row - the last 10 on the road - after opening with a win against Division III Greensboro College.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
''No. 32 (Beckford) had just an incredible night,'' Matta said. ''I told our guys during one of our timeouts, `We're making this guy a first-round draft pick.'''
The Aggies have lost their last 16 road games, dating to Jan. 11, 2014. They also dropped to 0-31 against ranked teams in school history.
North Carolina A&T: The Aggies have made the NCAA tournament 10 times and have only one win to show for it. But that victory came in the Buckeye state.
A&T had to wait more than 30 years before beating Liberty in 2013 First Four at the University of Dayton Arena on March 19, 2013, for its first NCAA win after nine defeats.
The Aggies made it to the NCAA tournament seven years in a row 1982-88, but had fallen on hard times - piling up 15 consecutive losing seasons - until a late hot streak pushed them above .500 and got them into the opening round of the tournament two years ago.
After the win over Liberty, A&T lost to No. 7 Louisville, 79-48. That was the last time the Aggies had played a nationally ranked team before Wednesday.
Ohio State: The game was played before an announced crowd of 14,585 at Nationwide Arena - the downtown home of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets instead of Value City Arena on Ohio State's campus - because the NCAA requires the host school to play one game at each March Madness site.
Nationwide Arena and Ohio State will host second- and third-round games on March 20 and 22, 2015.
North Carolina A&T: The Aggies wind up a grueling 11-game road trip at Kent State on Friday night.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes meet the 24th-ranked Tar Heels at United Center in Chicago on Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic.
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP