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Freshmen spark Buckeyes in season-opening victory

For the past two seasons, the Ohio State men’s basketball team was, for the most part, all Evan Turner, all the time. But with Turner now in the NBA, the Buckeyes appear to be, after one game, much more balanced.

In Friday’s 102-61 win over North Carolina A&T, five Buckeyes scored in double figures, including freshman forward Deshaun Thomas with a team-high 24 points. Thomas, who scored 15 points in the first half, shot 10 for 16 from the field including 2 for 3 from outside the arc.

“I was feeling it,” Thomas said. “When you’re on the bench, you have to be ready to play and play hard, and that’s what I did.”

Known for his prolific scoring in high school, Thomas admitted that it took him a while to get up to speed in other areas of the game, specifically his defense. Though Thomas might not be quite as good as he needs to be yet, coach Thad Matta said the freshman showed how much he’s improved with his performance.

“Deshaun has been so focused on his defense in practice,” Matta said. “We always tell the guys, ‘When you focus on the defense the offense will come’ and I think he found it today.”

Freshman Jared Sullinger, despite a less-than-stellar first half in which he played just eight minutes and scored only three points, finished with 19 points in his OSU debut. But it was his 14 rebounds that Sullinger said were most important.

“What I focus my game on is how many rebounds I get,” Sullinger said. “That’s something that has been established by my brothers and my father. (My father) being my basketball coach in high school, he told me if I don’t get a lot of rebounds, I’m not trying hard.”

Senior center Dallas Lauderdale recorded his first career double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds to go along with eight blocks, and guards William Buford and David Lighty both scored in double figures, with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

The Buckeyes play at No. 11 Florida on Tuesday.

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