Less than a week before its season opener, the No. 20 Ohio State men’s basketball team dispatched Walsh University, 77-37, behind the play of a pair of freshmen.
Freshman guard D’Angelo Russell led the Buckeyes with a game-high 17 points while freshman forward Jae’Sean Tate added 10 points in the Sunday evening exhibition at the Schottenstein Center.
Tate said making his first appearance in front of the Columbus crowd was something he’s dreamed of as a Pickerington, Ohio, native.
“I’m from here, this was a dream come true,” he said after the game. “This was a good first game to get all the butterflies out and we are just ready to go and get this season rolling.”
Russell and Tate each tallied eight rebounds, while Russell had six assists.
OSU coach Thad Matta said Russell has shown throughout preseason practice that he has the ability to make an impact in a variety of ways.
“That’s kinda what he’s done to this point,” Matta said after the game. “I think that he’s got a different pace about him, he sees things like a lot of freshmen don’t see them. And that’s good.”
Russell said he came to OSU with a chip on his shoulder, and added he’s prepared to do anything the Buckeyes’ coaching staff asks of him this season.
“Whatever coach needs me to do, I am going to do it,” he said after the game. “If he needs me to score, I’m gonna score. If he needs me to get everybody going, I am going to do it. Rebound, defend, I am going to do it.”
Matta added that Tate can play bigger than his 6-foot, 4-inch frame would suggest.
“Jae’Sean Tate plays big for his size, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
Senior forward Sam Thompson chipped in with 13 points in just 20 minutes of action.
Russell and Tate were among five new faces for OSU coach Thad Matta, as three true freshmen, one redshirt-freshman and a redshirt-senior transfer took the floor for the Buckeyes. Russell started the game while Tate, freshman forward Keita Bates-Diop, redshirt-freshman guard Kam Williams and Temple transfer forward Anthony Lee came off the bench.
“It’s good for these guys to get through that,” Matta said of the young Buckeyes making their debuts. “I think from the standpoint of first time they’ve ever worn the jersey, I think they’ll be at a little bit more at ease as we move forward.”
Because of an offensive rebound from senior center Amir Williams, OSU had two chances to score on its first possession of the game, but Thompson and senior guard Shannon Scott each missed three-pointers. From there, the Buckeyes shot seven of 13 from beyond the arc and added a buzzer-beating tip in by Tate to close out the first half with a 48-19 lead.
Russell — a Louisville, Ky., native — finished the opening 20 minutes with 16 points on four-of-five shooting from three-point range.
Through the first 10:11 of the second half, OSU opened up a 38-point advantage before closing out the game.
But despite the 40-point win, Matta said the OSU offense could have run with a higher tempo at points in the second half.
“I thought for the most part, that was the biggest thing,” he said. “We just stopped. We became very stagnant offensively there in the second half.”
Behind Russell and Thompson, sophomore forward Marc Loving added 12 points and seven rebounds for OSU. Scott tied Russell for the game-high with six assists, while Thompson added three blocks. The 10 players to see the floor for the Buckeyes scored at least two points each.
Tate said any player on the roster can make an impact offensively in any given game.
“We just try to share the ball and get the win,” he said. “I think the team as a whole will carry the offense.”
Junior guard Jesse Hardin Jr. had 10 points to lead Walsh.
Sophomore center Trevor Thompson, senior forward Jake Lorbach and freshman center David Bell were the only players listed on the Buckeyes’ roster not to appear in the exhibition. Thompson has to sit out the season per NCAA transfer rules after coming to OSU from Virginia Tech. Lorbach is a senior walk on while Matta said Bell will likely redshirt this season. Neither Thompson nor Lorbach dressed for the game.
OSU’s regular-season schedule is set to begin Friday against the University of Massachusetts-Lowell at the Schottenstein Center. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“It’s the season now, practice this week, play a game,” Matta said. “It’s on us.”