COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Deshaun Thomas stole the spotlight in his college debut, coming off the bench to score 24 points to lead No. 4 Ohio State to a 102-61 victory over North Carolina A&T on Friday night in the Global Sports Invitational.
The Buckeyes have four starters back from last season’s 29-8 Big Ten regular-season and tournament champion that made it to the NCAA round of 16. But the missing starter is Evan Turner, the consensus national player of the year now with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Ohio State’s most acclaimed recruit, Jared Sullinger, had 19 points and 14 rebounds, while fellow freshman Aaron Craft had added eight points and nine assists.
Marc Hill and Nic Simpson each had 14 points for the Aggies.
The Buckeyes didn’t appear to miss Turner all that much, particularly against a team that was just 11-22 a year ago.
Among the Ohio State veterans, Dallas Lauderdale had 12 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocked shots, William Buford had 11 points and David Lighty 10.
Ahead 52-25 at halftime, the Buckeyes ran off the first 12 points of the second half while holding the Aggies scoreless for more than 4 minutes.
Thomas, one of the leading scorers in Indiana high school history, is a part of a six-player freshman class considered by many to be among the best in the country.
With Thomas hitting 6 of 9 shots from the field, including his only 3-pointer and both free throws, the Buckeyes pulled away from an up-and-down start to take the big halftime lead.
Ohio State led 15-2 at the outset only to watch the Aggies draw as close as 29-17 on Jeremy Underwood’s hanger in the lane.
But Craft banked in a left-handed scoop while falling down before Jon Diebler banged in a 3-pointer. Thomas closed the half by scoring the Buckeyes’ final nine points.
Ohio State hit 11 of its last 15 shots from the field and finished 37 of 76 (49 percent) for the game.
Craft had five assists, six points and a steal – and didn’t miss a shot – in just 11 minutes of the opening half.
Lauderdale dominated inside early and had eight points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots.
One of the biggest changes off the court involved the seating at Value City Arena. Students have been moved behind the benches instead of at either end to get them make them more of a factor. The effect was hard to gauge in such a lopsided game.