Buckeyes open regular season Nov. 12 in Preseason NIT

COLUMBUS, Ohio The Ohio State men’s basketball team was edged by in-state foe Findlay by a score of 70-68 Tuesday in its final exhibition game before officially opening up the 2007-08 schedule. In a closely battled game at Value City Arena, the Buckeyes were led offensively by senior Jamar Butler with 22 points and freshman Kosta Koufos with 20 points, including 16 in the second half.

Butler kept the Buckeyes in the game early making three of his first four shots from beyond the arc in the first half. The Buckeyes closed the first half on a 16-5 run over the final 5:15 to cut a 30-17 Findlay advantage. Ohio State trailed 35-33 at the break behind Butler’s 11 points.

Koufos, a 7-foot center from Canton, Ohio, scored Ohio State’s opening basket in both exhibition games. He tallied 15 points and 12 rebounds in the opener vs. Ashland and followed that effort with 20 points and a team-high seven boards against Findlay.

Koufos scored 14 of Ohio State’s 21 points during a decisive second half run that kept the Buckeyes within striking distance of the hot-shooting Oilers. Findlay continued nailing the 3-pointers, including three in the last 10 minutes of the game to maintain its lead. Ohio State cut the lead to three on a trey by Butler with 1:52 remaining in regulation and he hit a free throw to bring the Buckeyes within two, but they were unable to regain position as the final seconds ticked off.

For the game, Findlay shot 10-of-24 from beyond the arc and had three players with double-digit points, led by Marcus Parker with 18.

Ohio State opens the regular season Nov. 12-13 in the Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off at Value City Arena. The Buckeyes take on Wisconsin-Green Bay at 9 p.m. Nov. 12 on ESPN2. The event opener pits Columbia and Delaware State at 6 p.m. The winners and losers from day one face off Nov. 13. The team with two victories advances to Madison Square Garden in New York in the NIT semifinals Nov. 21. The title game will be played Nov. 23.

Postgame Quotes

Thad Matta, Ohio State head coach
On the game
“First I would like to give Findlay all the credit in the world. They are a great team. I think this team (Ohio State) needed this in some ways, but we are going to continue to build.”

On what to take from the game
“We will make this into a positive and we will continue to progress. It is really eye-opening and we will continue to stress the small things.”

On Findlay pulling away
“The 16-2 run really knocked our socks off. We need to take away certain things and we didn’t and they beat us.”

Jamar Butler, senior guard
On the game
“Findlay wanted it more and hats off to them. They made some big shots all night and played a great game. They came into our gym and beat us and that is a big deal.”

On the team’s performance
“It was obvious that we made errors. It wasn’t on the offense but it defensively, we just didn’t play.”

Kosta Koufos, freshman forward/center
On the game and improvements needed
“Our defense really needed to step up but that didn’t happen. Findlay played their heart out. What we need to do now is to go and practice hard to continually get better. We also need to get more mentally prepared before each game.”

On the performance of the freshmen
“We are learning more and more about our system; both offensively and defensively. Thad Matta is a great coach and we have great upperclassmen to learn from. We need to be more like a sponge and soak up the knowledge that they offer. If we keep learning more and more, the better we can become as players.”

Ron Niekamp, Findlay head coach
On the game
“We made some big plays down the stretch. Obviously, we had some trouble with (Kosta) Koufos down low, but we had enough to finish out the game.”

On the impact a victory against Ohio State will have
“You have to keep in mind that it’s a practice game, an exhibition. Both teams need to realize that. Ohio State is a young team and is going to get better.”

Marcus Parker, Findlay guard
On Ohio State
“They have a big line up. We just wanted to spread the floor out and attack.”

On Grand Valley State and Findlay’s victories
“I saw Grand Valley beat a Big Ten team (Michigan State) and I felt we could come down here and do the same thing.”

On the effect the win will have on the team
“It’ll make us play harder. Now we have confidence and know we can beat any team.”