Nov. 17, 2006

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Daequan Cook has not only accepted coming off the bench, he’s embracing it.

The freshman swingman hit his first seven shots and finished with 22 points to lead No. 5 Ohio State over Eastern Kentucky 74-45 Friday night.

“I have no problem with it,” he said of his role providing instant offense. “Everybody can’t start. There are no stars on this team. Everybody’s going to play.”

Cook and Ohio State’s trapping defense were the differences as the Buckeyes (4-0) broke free after the Colonels (2-1) got off to a hot start.

Over the first 7 1/2 minutes, Eastern Kentucky scored 15 points while hitting seven of its eight shots from the field with only one turnover. The Colonels then scored two points over the next 9 minutes, making one of seven shots with 10 turnovers.

“Our team came out and executed very well to start both halves,” Eastern Kentucky coach Jeff Neubauer said. “It’s once we got into the flow that we got a little bit rattled. They did apply more pressure as the game went on and that created quite a few more turnovers.”

The Colonels finished with 26 turnovers after averaging 11 in their first two wins.

“We knew coming into tonight’s game that we wanted to dictate the tempo,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “For the most part we did a good job of playing sound defense.”

At the same time that Ohio State’s fullcourt pressure started to pry the ball loose, Cook energized the offense.

He scored 12 points in his first 7 minutes then added five more in a 20-2 run that gave Ohio State a 35-17 lead. The Buckeyes shot 71 percent from the field (17 of 24) while hitting 5 of 10 shots behind the arc.

“The biggest thing that will cause other teams problems is the fact that they have some very good shooters who can shoot it deep,” Neubauer said. “Even if you’re playing a man-to-man, it stretches your defense so much because you’re guarding a guy behind the NBA line instead of just the college line. And they don’t just have one guy who can shoot it that deep, they’ve got a whole crew of guys who can shoot it that deep.”

Cook was 7-for-7 from the field, hitting both of his 3-pointers, and finished with 16 points in the opening half as the Buckeyes built a 43-23 advantage.

“My teammates got me some wide-open shots and I knocked ’em down,” said Cook.

The Colonels never got closer than 15 points in the second half.

Cook hit 10 of 13 shots and also had four rebounds and two assists in 26 minutes.

Freshman point guard Mike Conley Jr. added 13 points – hitting all six of his shots from the field – and Ron Lewis, the Big Ten’s player of the week, had 11 for the Buckeyes.

“Their zone was spread out and extended, so it was easy to drive and create points that way,” Conley said.

Darnell Dialls was the only Eastern Kentucky player in double figures with 11 points.

There was a festive atmosphere in the sellout crowd. Many of the fans seemed to be building up steam for the football clash Saturday between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan at nearby Ohio Stadium.

The Buckeyes wore gray uniforms for the first time in 10 years.

“I told them during the first timeout that those uniforms are going back if they didn’t start playing defense,” Matta said with a laugh.

Ohio State is still without prized 7-foot freshman center Greg Oden, who is recovering from surgery on his right wrist to repair a ligament injury and is expected to return around Jan. 1.

“They did what they did tonight without a post presence,” Neubauer said. “You put four very deep shooters … with a post presence in there and they’re going to be incredible.”