Playing its first game of the 2014 regular season, the No. 20 Ohio State men’s basketball team showed very few signs of rust.
The Buckeyes (1-0) easily dispatched Massachusetts-Lowell (0-1) on Friday evening at the Schottenstein Center, 92-55.
The victory maintained OSU coach Thad Matta’s perfect record — now at 11-0 — in season openers for the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes went on a 14-0 run beginning a little over two minutes into the game and didn’t look back, opening up a 22-point halftime lead at 47-25.
It was a dominant effort on both sides of the ball for the Buckeyes in the first half, as OSU forced 13 first-half turnovers from the River Hawks.
“We did have some guys that were very, very active,” Matta said about OSU’s zone defense. “They used their length, they got up, they got the guys’ attention, and got back to where they were supposed to be.”
On the offensive end, OSU relied on ball movement, registering assists on 10 of its 18 first-half field goals.
One of those assists brought the crowd of 13,256 to its feet about five minutes into the game, when freshman guard D’Angelo Russell lobbed a no-look pass from the top of the key to a soaring Sam Thompson for the alley-oop dunk.
The senior forward led OSU with 10 points in the first half, while each of the other nine Buckeyes who played scored at least one point. After the game Matta said that Thompson, who has played in more collegiate games than any other player on the OSU roster, has settled in well to his role as a team leader.
“Sam has been playing very, very well, just in terms of — he’s got a little bit of a different demeanor about him, which I love, very businesslike,” Matta said. “He’s really done a nice job of taking care of the younger guys in terms of getting them to understand what their role is, what they have to do.”
OSU eased up on the pressure a bit in the second half but still used its size and talent to outscore the River Hawks 45-30.
For the game, OSU outrebounded the River Hawks by a mark of 35-24 including an 11-6 edge on the offensive glass. OSU senior center Trey McDonald grabbed the most rebounds with seven.
However, redshirt-senior forward Anthony Lee believed he and his teammates could have done a better job on the glass.
“We gotta do a better job with that (controlling the boards),” Lee, who had three rebounds for the Buckeyes, said. “I wasn’t aware of how much I had. Just going forward, as we’re playing bigger games, we’ve gotta all corral the rebounds and stuff like that.”
Redshirt-freshman guard Jahad Thomas led the way for the River Hawks, scoring 18 points and adding five rebounds.
Five players scored in the double digits for the Buckeyes, led by Russell with 16. The 2014 McDonald’s High School All-American also contributed six assists and four rebounds in his regular season debut.
UMass-Lowell coach Pat Duquette called Russell “as good a freshman as I’ve seen.”
“I’ve seen some pretty good players, and he looked as good as any of them that I saw,” Duquette said. “Not only did he make shots, but at his size he handles the ball, he plays poised, I mean he’s going to be a really, really good player.”
Four other Buckeyes made their OSU regular-season debut in the game: redshirt-freshman guard Kam Williams, freshman forwards Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate and the redshirt-senior Lee, who transferred from Temple in late March.
“I think the newcomers did a great job,” Thompson said. “We wanted to play fast, we wanted to have our defense translate to some offense, we wanted to get some easy buckets, I think we did a good job doing that.”
Starting center Amir Williams only played 10 minutes on the night. Matta said after the game that the senior got “banged in the knee,” but is fine.
The victory was the 81st consecutive home win against an unranked opponent for the Buckeyes dating back to Dec. 27, 2008.
OSU looks to extend that mark to 82 when it takes on Marquette on Tuesday. The game is scheduled to tip off at 7:30 p.m. at Value City Arena.