COLUMBUS, Ohio - Even though the game won't count in the standings there is plenty of reason to feel good about Thad Matta's Buckeyes going into the 2010-11 season. Fresh off the loss of last year's Naismith Award winner Evan Turner the Buckeyes have reloaded with a class of six freshmen to go along with several veteran leaders. Everyone chipped in on Sunday afternoon as five players scored double figures and the Buckeyes cruised to a 102-56 win over Walsh University.
Freshman Jared Sullinger led the way for the Buckeyes with 22 points and ten rebounds to get his first unofficial double-double even though it won't count due to being an exhibition game. David Lighty represented the old guard with 19 points of his own. William Buford had 16 points and eight rebounds.
In a departure from previous seasons no player was on the court for 30 minutes with Sullinger checking in for a team high 29 minutes on the game.
"Overall I was pretty pleased," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "I thought we did a good job offensively with shot selection and taking decent shots and I thought we moved the ball well. Defensively we were a little bit nervous there at halftime. I didn't think we did a good enough job... we weren't as active off the ball."
The Buckeyes clamped down defensively in the second half and held Walsh to 27-percent shooting. Terrance Saintil led the way for Walsh with 16 points and seven boards. The games will count on Friday when the Bucks host North Carolina A&T. But there will be plenty of tape and instruction for Matta and his coaches to go over with the team when they get back to it on Tuesday.
"We have got a long way to go but they took care of business today," Matta said.
The more than 12-thousand fans (reported) at the game got a rise out of freshman point guard Aaron Craft after seeing the Ohio native dive into the crowd to pick up a loose ball. It also didn't hurt that he had 12 points and eight assists of his own. Craft also did not commit a turnover which made his head coach happy.
"What you saw of Aaron is how he has been throughout the course of practice," Matta said. "When he checked in at the 15 minute mark we had given up ten points. I thought he did a pretty good job of picking up and in second half we had him push up trying to get him to shoot the ball a little quicker. He has a great feel for offensively for knowing where the ball needs to be and you can tell he has shot a ton of shots."
But everyone came to see the debut of Sullinger and he did not disappoint. His 22 points may have been a little on the quiet side but he was around the glass all game long and was able to clean up the mess on missed shots with his six offensive boards.
"I thought he had a pretty good command about him," Matta said. "We did a decent job of finding him down low. He shows that he can also pass the basketball. We have got to continue to build him and that's his first 'college game' he has ever played and I was pretty pleased with how he played today."
Sullinger was quick to praise his teammates after the game however. The freshman center had the opportunity to get looks from everyone on the team with Matta constantly trying different lineups and looks.
"I played well because my teammates got me the ball," Sullinger said. "They got me in the right spot and everyone was just sharing the basketball."
In the second half Matta had all five freshmen out on the court (Lenzelle Smith) did not play and is being brought back slowly from injury) at the same time. What did it mean having the 'next wave' of Buckeyes all out on the court at the same time?
"Four of us had played together already and just adding DeShaun makes us that much better," Craft said. "We talked about it all summer about coming in and playing together so it was just a lot of fun to finally get out there and play."