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Oft-overlooked Lauderdale a driving force for Buckeye offense

Cody Cousino / Asst. multimedia editor

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Playing in a rotation alongside three of the top 35 scorers in school history and three players who have won a combined 10 Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards this season, it can be easy to overlook what Ohio State senior center Dallas Lauderdale can bring to the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.

But there was Lauderdale, fresh off playing just nine and seven minutes in the Buckeyes’ past two games, respectively, jump-starting OSU’s offense in the opening moments of the Buckeyes’ 70-48 win against Iowa on Wednesday.

After committing a turnover on OSU’s opening possession, the senior from Solon, Ohio, bounced back with a pair of dunks on the Buckeyes’ following two possessions, giving OSU a 4-0 lead in the process.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said it would be easy to forget about Lauderdale when faced with the talent that the OSU roster possesses.

“They run their plays for everybody else, but he scores as a byproduct of so much other offensive talent and the fact that we were having trouble guarding those guys,” McCaffery said. “That’s how he hurts you. He hurts you with blocked shots. He hurts with his physical presence and rebounding. And then he hurts you when he hides around the basket and catches and dunks. It wasn’t like they were going to him.”

OSU senior guard David Lighty credited Lauderdale’s quick start — on both ends of the floor — as a reason for the Buckeyes’ 22-point victory.

“That gave us a big lift. I mean, he’s our key guy in the middle, especially on the defensive end,” Lighty said. “Him coming in and rebounding and getting easy buckets and holding down the paint for us in the middle is something that pretty much got us all started. It’s probably why we all played great defense today.”

Playing 14 minutes Wednesday, the most he’s played since Jan. 4, Lauderdale scored nine points on 4-of-4 shooting, grabbed two rebounds and blocked one shot. Lauderdale’s nine points pushed his career scoring total to 508 points.

On one particular sequence early in the second half, Lauderdale showcased his value to the Buckeyes as he blocked a shot out of bounds, contested a missed 3-point attempt and finished with a dunk on the other end of the court, stretching the OSU lead to 47-25.

Despite Lauderdale’s playing time being decreased by an average of more than six minutes per game this season, OSU coach Thad Matta said the Buckeyes will continue to rely on Lauderdale as they enter the heart of Big Ten play.

“Defensively, to start the game, he was as good as he’s ever been just with his energy and his movement and that sort of thing,” Matta said. “That’s the level we need him at.”

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