Ohio State opened its regular season with a 107-69 win over VMI in the first round of the SportsTime Ohio BCA Classic on Friday at Value City Arena.
Freshman guard Daequan Cook had a memorable debut with 22 points and nine rebounds.
Also for the Buckeyes, junior guard Jamar Butler had 18 points, senior forward Ivan Harris had 17 points, senior guard Ron Lewis had 15 and freshman forward David Lighty chipped in 11.
Fred Robinson and Reggie Williams had 16 points apiece for VMI.
Ohio State also received strong play from freshman point guard Mike Conley Jr. (8 points, 10 assists, 5 steals) and junior forward Othello Hunter (8 points, game-high 13 rebounds).
It marked the most points OSU has scored since moving into Value City Arena in 1998.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever coached in a game like that where offensively you are making plays all game – it was such a unique style,” OSU head coach Thad Matta said. “I thought our guys were careless with the ball at times. We didn’t do a good job of taking care of the ball (26 turnovers). In the second half I thought we did a much better job.”
Ohio State won the rebounding battle 52-42. The Keydets shot an incredible 47 three-pointers, but made just 11. Matta talked specifically about the rebounding situation.
“I thought we were better,” he said. “When a team shoots 47 threes, that’s a completely different animal in terms of rebounding because they come off so long. We probably aren’t where we want to be, but we did better.”
The Buckeyes will likely have a very balanced team this season in terms of offensive production and that’s just the way Matta likes it. Butler and Lewis will likely be the leading scorers, but everyone on the roster can score.
“Hopefully we can embrace team basketball,” Matta said. “We don’t care who scores.”
The 6-1 Conley appears to be the consummate point guard with his ball handling, quickness and passing ability. He had just two turnovers to go along with his 10 assists.
“This was a real good test and especially the way they play defense there is usually a lot of turnovers in a game like this,” Conley said. “And for me to only have two and have 10 assists makes me feel that I’m doing what it takes to help this team win and getting my teammates good shots.”
As for Cook, he didn’t start the game, but came off the bench on fire and never let up.
“I just felt comfortable and let the game come to me,” Cook said. “Coach Matta and I had a talk and he thought I was rushing things and told me to just let the game come to me and that’s what I tried to do.”
VMI head coach Duggar Baucom was pleased with the way his team played early in the game, but gave credit to the No. 7-ranked Buckeyes.
“They’ve got a great program here,” Baucom said. “They are really talented and came as advertised. They tried to knock us out early and they got up by 13, but we made a little run and I thought we played with great effort in the first half.
“I think we started to get them tired with about three minutes left in the first half. But whatever Thad said to them at halftime reenergized them and they played way better than us in the second half. They have a stable full of horses.”
The coach was asked if he was pleased or disappointed that his team took so many three-pointers.
“Our goal is 50,” he said.
The game began with consecutive three-pointers from Butler as OSU took a quick 6-0 lead at the 19:09 mark.
The announced crowd of 13,219 really had reason to get excited at the 16:25 mark when Hunter threw down an alley-oop dunk on a feed from Lewis, giving the Buckeyes a 13-4 lead. It would be the first of many dunks on this night from the athletic Buckeyes.
A Conley steal, followed by a dunk by Cook gave OSU a 16-4 lead at the 15:38 mark.
The air show continued as Butler and Cook hooked up for an alley-oop at the 12:23 mark to give the Buckeyes a 24-11 advantage.
Conley, who showcased his impressive all-around game, then went coast-to-coast for a 26-11 OSU lead, its largest of the first half (12:05).
But VMI slowly began to work its way back in the game. Guard Matt Murrer, who led the Keydets with 12 points in the first half, hit two threes down the stretch and the Buckeyes led by just eight (51-43) at halftime.
Cook had 17 points in the first half to lead the Buckeyes.
A Fred Robinson three-pointer cut OSU’s lead to 51-46 at the 19:20 mark of the second half.
Lighty made the count 53-46 with a short jumper and then dropped in a three-pointer off a feed from Conley to give OSU a 56-46 lead at the 17:41 mark.
Robinson drained another three-pointer to bring VMI back within seven (56-49) at the 17:20 mark.
Hunter dropped in a putback off a Lewis miss to give OSU a 58-49 lead, and then Butler drained a three on the next possession to give the Buckeyes a 61-49 advantage with 15:54 showing on the clock.
A rare Harris rebound and putback gave OSU a 72-54 lead. That was followed by a three from Butler to give OSU its largest lead of the game at 75-56 at 11:25.
Butler continued his hot shooting with a three-pointer to give OSU an 80-61 lead.
Consecutive dunks from Cook pushed the Buckeyes’ advantage to 84-61. Lewis then drained a three and Lighty made a nice drive to the basket for a commanding 89-61 lead with 7:45 left.
A Conley steal and coast-to-coast bucket gave OSU a 30 point lead (91-61) and they cruised to their first win of the season from there.
* The Buckeyes will next face Loyola-Chicago in the semifinals on Saturday at 8 p.m. The Ramblers were 68-57 winners over Princeton in the first round on Friday.
* Loyola was 19-11 last year and is considered the preseason favorite in the Horizon League. They are led by 6-7 wing Blake Schlib, who averaged 19.1 points a game last year. He had six points, six rebounds and five assists against Princeton.
* Matta went with a starting lineup of Conley, Butler, Lewis, Lighty and Hunter. That could be the way the Buckeyes go until freshman phenom center Greg Oden is cleared to play. Matt Terwilliger, Cook and Harris were in the game before the first media timeout.
* Ohio State added two walk-ons to its roster prior to the season opener: sophomore guard Danny Peters (6-1) from New Albany and freshman guard Mark Titus (6-4) from Brownsburg, Ind. Peters is the son of OSU assistant coach Dan Peters.
* In other first-round action at the BCA Classic, Kent State routed South Dakota State 105-50, and IUPUI beat Alabama A&M 86-47. Kent and IUPUI will meet in the semifinals tomorrow and the winner will play the winner of OSU-Loyola for the tournament championship on Sunday.