Andrew Holleran/ Photo editor
Matchups that Ohio basketball fans could only dream of became a reality on the Ohio State campus Saturday.
It was an all-Buckeye State theme during the Ohio Homecoming Battle for Ohio basketball game at St. John Arena, which saw Team Columbus eek out a 94-91 victory against Team Cleveland. The game saw former OSU teammates David Lighty and Jon Diebler guarding each other on the perimeter as well as university alumnus and Philadelphia 76er Evan Turner run the court with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson.
Thompson was dominant in the contest, leading all scorers in the game with a double-double that included 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting and 10 rebounds for Team Cleveland. Team Columbus countered with a team-high 18 points from Ron Lewis and 17 points from Turner. A coaching staff that included former No. 1-overall NBA Draft pick Greg Oden, former OSU player Ron Stokes and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman saw five players hit double digits on the way to the victory for the Columbus squad.
Afterward, Turner called the contest a great game and a great opportunity to lock horns with former teammates and current NBA foes.
Turner, who had fourth-quarter shots blocked by former OSU teammate Dallas Lauderdale and came up smiling after each rejection, called the game “fun.”
“It’s great for the city,” Turner said. “Hopefully we keep doing this game every single year.”
The high-paced celebrity All-Star game saw Team Cleveland control the opening eight minutes of play, but only until J.J. Sullinger, older brother of recently-drafted OSU product Jared Sullinger, struck for Team Columbus.
J.J. Sullinger, sporting a thicker build than during his playing days at OSU during the 2004-2006 seasons, stuck a 3-pointer home to give Columbus the lead, 22-21, late in the first quarter.
Columbus pulled ahead by half behind Turner’s 14 first-half points. Diebler, in a display familiar to OSU fans, connected on 2-of-3 3-pointers while contributing six points to the Team Columbus effort.
Diebler’s day from behind the arc was just getting started.
During halftime, Diebler dominated the 3-point shooting contest by scoring 5-of-5 shots on his first rack of balls before doing the same on his final rack to win the competition.
Diebler defeated Dru Joyce, a high school teammate of the Miami Heat’s Lebron James at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s and player at Akron from 2003-2007.
The 3-pointers for Diebler were his first in a competitive game at St. John Arena since a December 2010 win against South Carolina.
Of the game and his return to St. John Arena, Diebler, a member of the winning Team Columbus side, said that he too enjoyed himself.
“We were talking before the game – it was pretty awesome to get everyone together,” he said. “It was great to be back. I love this gym.”
Scoring slowed in the second half – the two squads combined for 32 points in the fourth quarter – but Team Columbus forced a turnover in the closing seconds as it defended a 93-91 lead and held on for the win.
Former OSU forward Dallas Lauderdale, a member of the losing Team Cleveland side, agreed with the rest, saying that the game was a memorable one.
“I thought it was a great time. Playing against former teammates – it was a lot of fun,” Lauderdale said.
Lauderdale, who is returning from playing professionally in Poland and will compete with the NBA’s Golden State Warriors in summer league play, added that Saturday’s game was reminiscent of practice sessions during his time at OSU.
“It wasn’t weird going against (former teammates) at all,” he said. “We did it every day at the Schottenstein Center, so to be able to go out there and talk a little trash, it was fun.”
There was statewide appeal for the Saturday event with cities and towns from around Ohio represented on the two teams’ respective rosters.
In addition to J.J. Sullinger, Turner and Diebler, Team Columbus featured former OSU letter winners Brian Brown (1999-2002), Terence Dials(2002-2006) and George Reese (1999-2000) as well as Scoonie Penn and Columbus natives Antonio Daniels and Samaki Walker.
Team Cleveland featured former Buckeyes Lighty (2007-2011), Lauderdale (2008-2011), Tony Stockman (2004-2005) and Damon Stringer (1995-1998; Cleveland State 1998-2000) in addition to Thompson, Keith McLeod (Bowling Green, 1999-2002) and Ryan Patton (Youngstown State 1999-2002).