for this game

Ellington picks up slack as North Carolina tops Ohio State

Nov 29, 2007 - 6:46 AM COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- Wayne Ellington made sure that Ty Lawson's nagging injury did not slow down North Carolina in its biggest matchup of the season.

Ellington scored 23 points, including 13 in the second half, as the second-ranked Tar Heels held off Ohio State for a 66-55 victory in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday.

It was the second win in as many seasons over the Buckeyes for the Tar Heels (6-0), who improved to 9-2 in the all-time series.

North Carolina's also handed Ohio State its first loss at home in 28 games.

"We feel very fortunate," Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. "It feels good in the locker room right now. Having Ohio State win 27 in a row at home, it feels good to come out on top tonight.

"I have a lot of respect for Thad (Matta) and his coaching staff. He has a young team with a lot of potential and they're going to be very good in the years to come."

North Carolina had to do it without starting point guard Lawson, who missed the game after suffering an ankle injury early in Sunday's win over Brigham Young in the final of the Las Vegas Invitational.

"It shows how deep we are and how experienced we are," Ellington said of getting the win without Lawson. "The guys that came off the bench really stepped up."

Although not as big a matchup as last season's due to the absence of top NBA pick Greg Oden, Ohio State (4-2) challenged North Carolina early, even taking a 32-29 advantage into the half when freshman guard Jon Diebler banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

"I set a screen for him (Jamar Butler) and my defender went with him," Diebler said. "When he got me the ball I knew we were low on time and I just tried to get it off."

The Buckeyes extended that lead to 35-31 when Jamar Butler sank a 3-pointer just 1:22 after the intermission. However, Ohio State had a major shooting drought that buried its chances of beating one of the top two teams in the nation for a third straight year.

After freshman center Kosta Koufos' jumper broke a 37-37 tie with 16:24 to play, the Buckeyes missed their next 17 shots - a drought that lasted for nearly 11 minutes.

Before Ohio State could sink another shot, North Carolina grabbed a 57-43 lead behind eight points by Deon Thompson and five from Ellington.

"We had a 10-minute stretch in the second half that we just couldn't score," Diebler said. "You can't do that against a team like North Carolina."

"We know Ohio State missed shots that they normally would have made," Williams said. "I think there was some nervous energy that drained both teams and we had more experienced players that we could put in towards the end of the game."

After another 3-pointer by Diebler ended the shooting woes with 5:34 to go, the Buckeyes managed to close within 57-51 after David Lighty hit a shot from the arc and Diebler finished off a fast-break dunk.

Ohio State stayed within six points until Ellington stepped up, hitting a 3-pointer en route to scoring the final seven points for North Carolina.

"Our defense was there to win the game tonight," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "We knew where (Tyler) Hansbrough was, but we lost Ellington a few times and he made us pay. I thought our defense played pretty well overall."

Thompson finished with 14 points and Hansbrough added 13 and 11 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who overcame 38.0 percent (27-of-71) shooting by holding a 58-42 advantage on the boards.

Diebler had 19 points and Butler 17 for the Buckeyes, who went 19-of-70 (27.1 percent) from the floor en route to dropping to 1-5 in the annual showdown with the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The 6-6 Diebler did not factor into Ohio State's shooting problems, going 7-of-16 from the field and 5-of-14 on 3-pointers en route to a season high in points.

"Jon got a roll there for a while tonight," Matta said. "I am not worried about our shooting."