The public finally got its first glimpse of Jared Sullinger and the rest of the 2010-11 Ohio State Buckeyes Sunday afternoon. And if today’s performance is a foreshadowing of the regular season, all’s well without national player of the year Evan Turner. The Buckeyes dismantled Division II Walsh, 102-56, in an exhibition game at Value City Arena.
Much of the conversation leading up to the season has centered on who would start and who would run the point. The four returning starters; William Buford, Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale and David Lighty along with Sullinger was the starting five. The lineup was fluid throughout the game, though. While the Buckeyes likely won’t substitute as much as they did today during the regular season, chances are the rotation will still be eight-deep. The core group of players also showed versatility playing multiple positions.
The point guard conundrum will play out as the season goes along, but it was clear that Buford and Aaron Craft were the guys who will take most of the load.
To the delight of the 12,235 fans in attendance, Craft might have outshone his freshmen counterpart Sullinger. One of the six heralded freshmen in last year’s recruiting class, Craft looked like the potential starting point guard, scoring 12 points, dishing out eight assists and grabbing four rebounds and two steals in 26 minutes. He also dove into the first row of seats to grab a loose ball. The biggest number, though, was zero --- as in the number of turnovers Craft had. His performance made sure there wouldn’t be a repeat of 2007 when Findlay came to the Schott and defeated Ohio State.
"My town was pretty happy and excited," Craft, a Findlay native, said. "It was all they could talk about for a while."
Ohio State had five players score in double figures. Sullinger had a double-double, leading all scorers and rebounders with 22 and 10, respectively. Six of Sullinger’s rebounds were of the offensive variety. Lighty added 19 points, Buford 16 and Lauderdale 12 points and 7 rebounds.
"I played good because my teammates got me the ball," Sullinger said. "It's a last man standing type battle with me. If you can stop me, you stop me, if you can't, you can't. I had six offensive rebounds, and that was my bread and butter. I had to find a way to score."
Big Sully, as he is affectionately known, also put himself in the right spot time after time and showed he will be a difference maker on the glass all season. Not only that, there were several times Ohio State dished the ball down low to Sullinger only to have him find an open man on the perimeter. A big man with the ability to pass the ball back outside has been something missing from the Buckeyes repertoire for years.
"Overall, I was pleased with how we played," Thad Matta said. "We were good offensively, but I think we got a little nervous on defense toward the end of the first half. We weren't as active off the ball and our rotations were slow. I told the guys that we've got a long way to go, but we took care of business tonight."
Ohio State got off to a fast start, hitting seven of its first 11 shots from the field with all five starters scoring in the games first six minutes. The Buckeyes led 55-30 at the half and had nine different players get minutes, including five freshmen. Buford led first half scorers with 14 points. He added four rebounds. Craft had seven points, seven assists, three rebounds and two steals.
The Buckeyes shot 63 percent from the field in the first half and 60 percent for the game.
Leading 57-35 two minutes into the second half, the Buckeyes went on a 17-4 run over the next six minutes to bust the game wide open and take a commanding 74-39 lead.
Ohio State opens the regular season against North Carolina A&T Friday at 7 p.m. in Value City Arena.