If the first possession of the season was any indication of how the rest of the season may go, the Ohio State men’s basketball team is destined for success.
Sophomore forward Jared Sullinger won the tip, the Buckeyes worked the ball inside, kicked it out and swung the ball around the perimeter to wide-open sophomore guard Aaron Craft who buried a three-pointer.
OSU led 3-0 and never looked back.
The No. 3-ranked Buckeyes dominated visiting Wright State on both ends of the floor and defeated the Raiders, 73-42.
Head coach Thad Matta said he was pleased with the team’s performance.
“Obviously, a good win for us opening up,” he said. “…Probably a little bit better effort of what we were looking for.”
Sophomore Lenzelle Smith Jr. joined an OSU starting lineup that included Sullinger, Craft, senior William Buford and sophomore Deshaun Thomas.
Sullinger led the way for the Buckeyes, scoring 19 points and nine rebounds.
The Buckeyes struggled to find their offensive rhythm early on, allowing the Raiders to keep the score closer than some may have expected. OSU led, 19-14, with 7:30 remaining in the first half.
“We were kind of sluggish in the first half,” Buford said. “I think some people had some jitters and needed to get the nervousness out of them.”
With less than four minutes remaining in the half, Buford threw a pass to sophomore forward J.D. Weatherspoon, which Weatherspoon caught in mid-air and flushed through the hoop, giving OSU a 29-17 lead.
“They came out with their best punch,” Sullinger said. “As soon as we took that punch we started elevating our game to a whole other level and we just kept pushing.”
OSU’s defense was stout. Craft’s three first-half steals stifled the Raiders and helped the Buckeyes take a 34-20 lead into the locker room despite shooting 40 percent from the field and 29 percent from behind the arc.
Buford struggled offensively in the first half, shooting 1-of-4 from the field, but scored six quick points to ignite the OSU offense as part of a 10-0 run to start the second half, giving the Buckeyes a 44-20 lead.
Buford finished with 13 points and four assists.
As OSU extended its lead, Matta began to look to his bench to finish the job.
Sophomore guard Jordan Sibert and junior forward Evan Ravenel were the first Buckeyes to come off the bench, but all 12 players on the roster saw action.
Matta said he was pleased with the bench players’ performance, but added that playing twelve players is not going to become a trend.
“The rotation could get a little bit tighter,” Matta said, “but I thought the young guys did some pretty good things out there.”
OSU next plays No. 10 Florida on Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio.