COLUMBUS, Ohio — Matthew Driscoll didn't have much to celebrate after his North Florida Ospreys were pounded 99-64 by No. 7 Ohio State on Friday night.
That didn't stop him from trying.
When Driscoll became the coach at North Florida five years ago he got some advice from the Buckeyes' Thad Matta.
"He reached out to me when I first got the job and explained some things to me," Driscoll said after the lopsided loss. "One of his quotes to me, he wanted to make sure I celebrated small victories: 'Whatever you do celebrate small victories.' I'm not sure. We talked about it after the game, but I'm not quite sure which one I'm supposed to celebrate right now."
There wasn't much to smile about other than collecting a nice guarantee, banking the experience and hoping it pays dividends down the line for his Atlantic Sun Conference team.
First, the Ospreys (4-4) just have to survive a grueling schedule.
"We have Alabama, Indiana and Michigan State coming up," Driscoll said with a rueful laugh. "We're actually a part now of the Big Ten/SEC Challenge — I don't know if you guys knew that we have one of those this year. And we've already played Florida."
Driscoll said he hoped that playing against such competition hardens his players and makes them realize what it takes to be an elite team.
"You know where this helps us? This helps our guys grow in the sense that they understand that there's more of a sense of urgency," he said.
The Ospreys were done in by a torrid shooting night by the Buckeyes (6-0).
LaQuinton Ross, mired in a season-long slump that had him shooting 22 percent from the field coming in, hit 6 of 9 shots and scored 17 points for Ohio State.
"When guys see other guys make shots, it boosts everyone's confidence," Smith said. "It makes everybody think, 'Why can't I be the guy to make the next shot?' That stuff catches on fire and guys start swinging the ball and getting wide-open shots."
The Buckeyes were shooting 42 percent on the season, but made their first eight shots from the field and finished at 69.2 percent — the sixth-hottest shooting night in program history.
Matta couldn't have been happier to see the ice thaw on Ross' jumper.
"LaQuinton got into a little bit of a groove," he said. "He and I talked the other day. I just said, 'Look, we can't make shots for you. We can't think for you out there on the court.' I told him we were going to put him in positions to be successful. He was probably humbled a little bit the way he's shot the ball the last few games. It was great to see the ball go in for him."
Craft had three layups, Williams and Smith Jr. each had five points and Ross hit a 3 in the spurt in a 19-0 first-half spurt that gave the Buckeyes the lead for good.
North Florida came back to score 14 of the next 18 — Beech hit two 3s and Davenport added one — to cut the lead to 28-20.
But the Buckeyes led 48-29 at the break and then scored 11 of the first 13 points in the second half with Ross scoring four early points.
For an instant, Driscoll thought his team might have made it through the worst part when it bounced back from the 19-point surge.
"We weathered the storm and we were going to be OK," he said. "What our guys don't understand, (elite teams) are going to go to another level. I just didn't think we answered that next bell like we answered their first bell. And then they kept making shots."
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