Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
The Ohio State basketball team is expected to blow out non-Division I teams, but In the Buckeyes’ Tuesday exhibition game meeting with Walsh, OSU was only 12 points better than the NCAA Division II foe.
In their first competitive action since falling in the 2012 NCAA Tournament’s Final Four round, the Buckeyes, ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press preseason top 25, continued prep work for the 2012-13 season with a 83-71 exhibition game win against the Cavaliers Tuesday at the Schottenstein Center.
OSU returns three starters – junior forward Deshaun Thomas and junior guards Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. – from the 2011-12 team that finished with a 31-8 overall record on its way to a national semifinal appearance. That trio combined for 36 points in the game with Thomas leading the way with 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting.
OSU will compete in one additional closed-door exhibition game before opening the 2012-13 season at the Carrier Classic on the deck of the USS Yorktown against Marquette Nov. 9, in Charleston, S.C.
The score was hardly of consequence in the game, though Walsh might have raised some eyebrows after leading OSU for most of the first half and then keeping the final score close as well.
The first half was a period of experimentation for OSU coach Thad Matta. The Buckeyes used nine different combinations of players in the opening 20 minutes and every scholarship player except junior guard Alex Rogers saw time.
Perhaps due to the closer-than-expected outcome, Rogers never made it into the game, nor did walk-on freshman forward Jake Lorbach.
In what might have been a glimpse into the team’s future, Matta went with a towering starting lineup, choosing Thomas, Smith Jr., Craft, 6-foot-8 sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross, and 6-foot-11 sophomore center Amir Williams for the start.
OSU sophomore forward Sam Thompson, who stands at 6-foot-7, was left out of the starting lineup, but Matta was rewarded for choosing a tall starting-five as the Buckeyes blocked eight shots in the first half.
Former Buckeyes guard David Lighty was in attendance for the game, and told The Lantern that he enjoyed watching the back court combination of Craft and sophomore guard Shannon Scott.
“It’s a nice tempo and I like fast-paced,” Lighty said.
Despite trailing in the early stages of the contest, OSU took the lead for good at the 2:10 mark in the period when Thomas spun to the rack and laid the ball in as he was fouled. The score and the free throw to follow put the Buckeyes up, 29-27.
OSU scrambled on the final possession of the half before Craft heaved a last-second 3-pointer to send the Buckeyes into break with a 39-30 lead.
The Cavaliers didn’t go away quietly in the second half. Walsh senior forward Kenny Kornowski kept his NCAA Division II team in contention with 12 points in the game on 6-of-15 shooting from the floor.
Walsh sophomore forward Jeff Copeland also aided in keeping the Cavaliers competitive as he scored 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting for the visitors.
OSU was visibly frustrated in the second half – players clapped in frustration after missed baskets. The team’s anticipated fast-tempo offense was more than Walsh could cope with, though.
During OSU’s Oct. 11 media day, players and coaches spoke of the fast-tempo offense and they backed up that talk in the second half against the Cavaliers. The fast-paced offense gave the Buckeyes the points they needed to hold off a Walsh rally. OSU rotated the same 10 players in and out of the game, and closed out the win by a 12-point margin.
OSU shot better 26 percent from behind the arc in the game, draining only 5-of-19 3-point attempts.