Itching to play, Buckeyes win opener

Associated Press


Late in the first half, with his team trying but failing to create any opportunities, Ohio State coach Thad Matta called a timeout.

“I saw Thad jump off the bench and it looked like he had a 40-inch vertical,” Albany coach Will Brown said. “I saw how animated he was. That timeout, obviously, I think that lit a fire under them.”

Deshaun Thomas scored 13 of his 19 points in what turned out to be a 17-2 run to end of the half, leading No. 4 Ohio State to an 82-60 victory over the Great Danes on Sunday in the Buckeyes’ belated season opener.

The Buckeyes were supposed to play on Friday night against Marquette in Charleston, S.C., aboard the USS Yorktown, but condensation on the court led to that game being canceled.

“When they announced we weren’t going to play I looked at some of the crowd and some of the faces and I felt so bad that we didn’t get to play,” said Lenzelle Smith Jr., who added 18 points. “They go to war for us every day. I was thinking the least we could do was play a game for them.”

Instead, the Buckeyes channeled their desire to play into their next game.

“They were itching to play,” Matta said.

Thomas, one of the stars of the Buckeyes’ Final Four run last season, hit just one of his first seven shots and Ohio State trailed 23-22 late in half. But he asserted himself as the Buckeyes took control.

Matta’s angry timeout talk ignited the Buckeyes.

“He just told us to play hard,” said Thomas, a junior who had contemplated jumping to the NBA before electing to return to Ohio State. “He said, `Don’t let up.’ As a team we just kept saying, `Boost it up. Let’s get (the lead) to 30.”

Aaron Craft, considered an outside-shooting liability a year ago, hit 5 of 7 3-pointers for a career-high 20 points to go with seven assists.

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