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Mullens breaks out to lead Ohio State to 14th straight win

Dec 23, 2008 - 3:57 AM COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- In lieu of injured forward David Lighty, 13th-ranked Ohio State is looking for as many scoring options as it can get. On Monday, the Buckeyes found one in the form of freshman center B.J. Mullens.

The 7-foot, 275-pound big man put together the first breakout performance of his career, posting a season-high 19 points and eight rebounds to lead Ohio State to an 83-59 rout of North Carolina-Asheville.

With the victory, the Buckeyes (9-0) extend the nation's longest winning streak to 14.

One of the most sought-after recruits in the country while starring at Canal Winchester High School - a mere 15 miles from the OSU campus - Mullens has been steadily worked into the rotation. His abilities were on full display against the Bulldogs.

"It's definitely getting easier as time goes on," Mullens said. "I want to thank my teammates for making all of those outside shots tonight to help open up the middle. That really helped my game tonight."

Mullens controlled the paint, using his size to his advantage and scoring primarily from three feet or within.

"He's growing into it and keeps getting better," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "The main thing has been his consistency. He is getting better with his post ups and finishes. Tonight he was very active defensively."

His efforts helped put Ohio State out in front early on and paved the way for one of the team's smoothest victories of the season. Meanwhile, fellow freshman William Buford did his part as well, setting a season high with 16 points on 6-of-14 shooting in his first career start.

"It really was no different than coming off the bench," Buford said. "I always come out with the mindset to win. It was no different today."

The Bulldogs pulled to within 29-24 late in the first half on freshman J.P. Primm's 3-pointer. But the Ohio State freshmen provided the answer. Mullens extended the lead to eight with a three-point play and Buford followed with a 3-pointer as the Buckeyes concluded the first half with a flourish.

"Tonight we really did a good job of coming out and getting off to a good start in the first half," OSU guard Evan Turner said. "We had really started out slow the first couple of games, but we came out with the mentality to attack tonight. Once we got rolling, (the lead) was like a snowman - it just kept growing."

Mullens and Buford added one bucket apiece to open up the second half to cap a 12-0 Buckeye run bridging the halves.

"I thought Mullens was more mobile in person and had a lot of range inside," UNC-Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach said. "We needed to have more movement inside and checkout outside more. ... I think Mullens is going to be a real good one for this team."

Turner added 17 points, four rebounds and four assists for the Buckeyes.

"We have the ability to go big or small," Turner said. "Our team has so much talent and depth that no matter who we put out on the floor, we can make thing happen."

John Williams led Asheville with 10 points and seven boards.

    --- --- -----
    UNC ASHEVILLE 24 35 59
    OHIO ST (13) 37 46 83 FINAL

    Dec 22 8:54 PM
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    UNC-Asheville 24, Ohio State(13) 39  2nd - 19:02Dec 22 8:07 PM

    (13) OHIO ST 37 HALFTIME

    Dec 22 7:48 PM