Freshman Deshaun Thomas scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds while five Buckeyes scored in double figures in Ohio State’s 81-41 win over UNC Wilmington Saturday night. It was the third time in as many games that at least four OSU players scored at least 10 points, as the Buckeyes led by as many as 49 points.
For the third straight game, freshman Jared Sullinger, junior William Buford and seniors Dallas Lauderdale, Jon Diebler and David Lighty started for the Buckeyes, with freshmen Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas the first off the bench. As was the case in both of OSU’s first two games, Craft entered the game at the first time-out to play point guard, moving Buford to shooting guard.
It took Wilmington nearly five minutes before it scored its first points, while OSU made an 18-4 run to start the game. On the shoulders of Sullinger’s eight points and six rebounds in the first half, OSU led by 32 at the break. The second half was no different, and by the end of the game, all nine Buckeyes who entered the game made at least one field goal.
Thomas, who led the Buckeyes in scoring in their season-opener last week, struggled Tuesday against Florida and played just eight minutes. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, Thomas didn’t let his struggles carry over.
Thomas said he was always the biggest player in his high school games and could virtually score at will around the basket. But as was the case in the Buckeyes’ opener, Thomas showed he is capable of scoring from the outside as well.
“I came into practice and worked really hard and came into this game and played really hard,” Thomas said. “I’m just doing me. I score and I put the ball in the basket.”
With Lauderdale in foul trouble and relegated to the bench for most of the first half, Matta retooled his lineup early. Freshman guard Jordan Sibert, who played just 15 minutes in the Buckeyes’ first game and had just one possession Tuesday at Florida, saw a lot of time with the rest of the starters in the first half Saturday.
Sibert looked uncomfortable on the offensive end in the little time he played in the first two games, often hurrying and missing what should have been makeable shots. Saturday, however, the freshman said he was the most comfortable he’s felt so far and made three of his four 3-point attempts in the first half, finishing the game with 11 points.
“My coaches always tell me, ‘You’re going to get your time, and when you get it, take advantage of it,'” Sibert said. “This whole thing is a learning experience. We’re still young and we have a lot of time to grow.”
The biggest question the Buckeyes had to answer coming into the season was, who would replace Evan Turner, who led the Buckeyes in scoring, as well as most other statistical categories, a year ago? It appears filling the void will be a team effort.
Sullinger, whom Matta said is dealing with a minor ankle injury from Tuesday’s game, played just eight minutes in the second half but still finished the game with 11 points and eight rebounds. Buford added 12 points, while Lighty and Diebler scored 10 and nine, respectively.
“We definitely do have a lot of depth on this team and that is a plus because we are extremely hard to stop,” Sibert said. “One night it may be Deshaun’s night, it may be Jared’s night or it may be Will or Jon’s night. We never know, and that’s OK.”