COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Amir Williams and Shannon Scott were McDonald's All-Americans in high school.
For most of their Ohio State career, however, they have been merely side orders.
Just in time, they're stepping into the spotlight for the eighth-ranked Buckeyes.
"I've been working my tail off during the offseason and in practices as well just to have to some go-to moves in the post," said Williams, a 6-foot-10 junior who is averaging only 3 points and 3 rebounds a game for his first two seasons. "It's looking like it's finally starting to come alive. I'm starting to feel a lot more confident. Once I see that ball going in the basket, I want to get the ball again to try to make another basket. It's a confidence thing. I hope it skyrockets."
Scott has spent his first two years as a defensive option if Aaron Craft got into foul trouble. He also was averaging 3 points a game but now is hitting for 12 points a game.
"We came in all summer and worked on our game," Scott said, speaking of himself and Williams. "We've got a better attitude this year as well. We know we have to be guys on this team that make plays happen."
The Buckeyes (4-0) struggled all night to make shots, finishing 20 of 56 from the field for 36 percent. They were rescued by Williams' strong play inside -- he hit 6 of 9 shots from the field, 4 of 5 free throws and added seven rebounds.
"We had 13 shots we missed at halftime that were right in the paint," coach Thad Matta said. "Thank goodness Amir got us off to a pretty good start and was making some shots."
Scott added four assists and three steals. Craft had nine points and seven steals and freshman Marc Loving added nine points off the bench.
"Ohio State's a good team. You've got to do a lot of things right to beat a team like that," first-year American U. coach Mike Brennan said. "We had 27 turnovers and gave up 17 offensive rebounds, and that had a lot to do with the loss tonight. But they're good. They're loaded. They've got a lot of weapons."
Jesse Reed scored 15 points, Tony Wroblicky had 14 and Darius Gardner 10 for the Eagles (1-2), who never led in the last 23 minutes but never really went away.
The Buckeyes were coming off an impressive 52-35 victory against No. 17 Marquette in Milwaukee on Saturday.
Up by five points at the break Wednesday despite shooting just 26 percent in the first 20 minutes, the Buckeyes stepped it up in the second half. Scott got things going by stealing the inbounds pass to start the half and hitting a layup.
Then Scott came off a pick by Williams and tossed an alley-oop pass back to Williams for a dunk to start a 5-0 run that pushed the lead to 10 points for the first time. Lenzelle Smith Jr., starting his 79th consecutive game, hit a foul shot before Williams made a left-handed hook for a 37-27 advantage.
But not until Smith hit a 3 with 3:22 left was it clear the Buckeyes were in command. That was part of a 9-0 run that pushed the lead to 16.
Ohio State improved to 19-3 against teams from the Patriot League.
Reed only had two points against UMBC -- after scoring 15 in the opener -- but they came at a perfect time. He hit a game-winning layup with 1 second left in the extra session for the win.
The Eagles led much of the opening half, going up as much as 14-10 at the midpoint.
Their last lead was 20-17 on a shot inside by John Schoof at the 6:29 mark, with the Buckeyes closing the half by scoring 11 of the final 14. Craft missed his first five shots but hit two layups in the final 22 seconds for a 28-23 lead at the break.
Longtime Big Ten referee Ed Hightower received a nice standing ovation when it was announced late in the game that he was working his final game at Value City Arena.
American's sticky defense played a role in keeping the Buckeyes on their heels.
"There were a lot of times where we made great plays," Scott said. "We ran our sets in the correct way and got the ball inside and got a great shot, but we just didn't make it. There were also times when we didn't do what we were supposed to be doing and we turned the ball over. We just have to really focus."