Nov. 11, 2011
COLUMBUS, OHIO (AP) – No. 3 Ohio State was very good in its opener.
Coach Thad Matta knows the Buckeyes have to get even better – in a hurry.
Preseason All-America Jared Sullinger had 19 points and nine rebounds to lead Ohio State to a 73-42 victory over Wright State on Friday night in the Global Sports Shootout.
“(No. 8) Florida is obviously a very, very talented basketball team,” Matta said about his team’s next opponent. “They’ve got more guys back off of last year’s team than us. We’ll be able to tell a lot about ourselves coming out of Tuesday night.”
“Buford was phenomenal, particularly getting others involved,” Wright State coach Billy Donlon said. “We didn’t have an answer. That’s not on our kids – (Buford is) a lottery pick.”
A.J. Pacher had 13 points and Reggie Arcenaux added 11 for Wright State, which was 19-14 last season, but doesn’t have a player on the roster with more than a year of experience with the Raiders.
Bigger, quicker Ohio State was 26 of 38 at the free-throw line compared to Wright State being 10 of 15.
“We really just came out and put our foot on their throat,” Sullinger said. “We just picked up the intensity. We got tired of it being a back-and-forth game.”
The Buckeyes must replace three starters from last year’s Big Ten regular-season and tournament champion (34-3) that won its first 24 games and was ranked No. 1 before losing 62-60 to Kentucky in the NCAA regional semifinal. This season’s roster includes only one senior (Buford), one junior, and 10 sophomores and freshmen.
“They’re going to be phenomenal,” Donlon said of the Buckeyes. “But it’s going to take some time to have them get used to their roles.”
Up by 14 at halftime, the Buckeyes pulled away on field goals by Buford, Deshaun Thomas and Sullinger to push the lead to 40-20. Buford, the Buckeyes’ second-leading scorer last season, added two more field goals in the 10-0 run.
“We were just trying to be aggressive,” Buford said. “We got in the bonus and kept trying to be aggressive.”
The lead hovered around 30 points for most of the second half as both teams emptied their benches.
The Buckeyes led 34-20 at halftime with Sullinger picking up nine of his 13 points at the line.
The officials were busier than either team, calling 21 fouls and whistling 23 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes. The teams combined for just 15 field goals.
Wright State had 16 turnovers at halftime and finished with 25.
“I thought we had pretty good activity defensively,” Matta said. “They’re a young ballclub. For them to go on the road, first game, they had pretty good poise. Hopefully we had something to do with it.”
Ohio State never trailed from the moment Craft hit a 3-pointer from the right corner to open the scoring. Ahead just 19-14 after the Raiders’ John Balwigaire hit a 3-pointer at the 8:26 mark, the Buckeyes went on a 13-3 run over the next 6 minutes with Sullinger scoring six points.
The loudest roar of the game from a crowd of 15,645 at Value City Arena came on a backdoor, alley-oop dunk by J.D. Weatherspoon off a pass from Buford.
The Buckeyes have won all three meetings with Wright State, the previous games coming in 1990 and 1992.
Matta, 293-88 in his 13th season overall and 191-57 starting his eighth year at Ohio State, improved to 12-0 in openers. Matta, not known for going very deep into his bench, played 11 and had everyone score.
“I’d love to play everybody equal minutes, divvy up the 200 divided by 12,” he said, sniffling and with a raspy throat due to a bad cold. “It’d be ideal. But as we move forward, the hard part is we play again Tuesday and again on Friday and then we have three games in five days. The rotation could get a little tighter. But I thought the young guys did some pretty good things out there.”