COLUMBUS, OHIO (AP) – David Lighty almost doubled his career high with 21 points as Ohio State beat Wisconsin-Green Bay 91-68 Monday night in the opening round of the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament at Value City Arena.
The Buckeyes (1-0) advance to meet Columbia (1-0), which beat Delaware State 47-41 in the earlier game.
Freshman Kosta Koufos had 18 points and Jamar Butler, the only returning starter from last year’s 35-4 team that was the NCAA runner-up, added 17 points and 10 assists. Othello Hunter also had 17 points. The Buckeyes had dropped their only two previous first-round appearances in the preseason NIT, in 1989 and 1994.
Mike Schachtner had 17 points for the Phoenix (1-1).
Lighty, a defensive specialist on last year’s team, came in with career highs of 11 points and 8 rebounds. He had 12 points at the half and ended up matching his career high in rebounds.
It appeared the Buckeyes were in for another long night midway through the first period when they trailed the Phoenix 22-17 after going scoreless for almost 3 minutes.
But suddenly everything started clicking.
They took the lead by hitting their next six shots from the field including two 3-pointers by Koufos and one each by Lighty – who also had a three-point play in the 16-4 surge – and Butler.
It didn’t stop there, either. Over the final 10 1/2 minutes of the half, they hit 11 of 15 shots from the field including 5 of 7 3-pointers – blended with some solid defense at the other end – to build a 46-34 lead at the break.
They had just one turnover over that span while outrebounding the Phoenix 8-4 and holding them to 33 percent shooting on 5 of 15 from the field with a clinging, matchup zone.
Ohio State then scored 14 of the first 18 points in the second half before substitutes took over.
The Buckeyes shot 52 percent for the game while holding the Phoenix to 37 percent.
Coach Thad Matta, who was active on the sideline despite two major back surgeries this summer, improved to 8-0 in season-openers as a head coach, including 1-0 at Butler, 3-0 at Xavier and 4-0 at Ohio State.