Ohio State finally got a test away from Columbus and managed to get a win in a hostile environment.
Deshaun Thomas scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and the fourth-ranked Buckeyes beat Rhode Island 69-58 in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament in Connecticut on Saturday.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 15 points, Aaron Craft had 13 points and four assists for Ohio State (2-0), which struggled with the Rams (0-3) well into the second half.
Xavier Munford had 16 points to lead Rhode Island, which had four players in double figures and trailed by just four at halftime.
“We’re going to know a lot more about our basketball team at 6:30 then we did coming into this tournament, Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “I think this will be good for our team in terms of growth.”
This was Ohio State’s first game away from home, and its first on a neutral court.
The Buckeyes had been scheduled to play on Nov. 9 in the Carrier Classic on the USS Yorktown in South Carolina, but that game had to be canceled because of condensation on the court.
So the Buckeyes had played just once, a 22-point home win in the opening game of this tournament last Sunday over Albany.
The Rams were down just six in this one when Craft hit a 3-point shot that bounced around the rim and in with 6:45 left and then stole the ball on the other end of the court.
That led to a technical foul on Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley.
Thomas hit both free throws and the five-point swing gave Ohio State a 55-44 edge, its first double-digit lead of the game, and the Buckeyes held on from there.
“It was exciting to play with a lot of spirit and a lot of fight against a top-5, national-caliber program that has a great chance to play in the Final Four,” said Hurley. “Based on where we are as a program, I couldn’t be happier with the way we fought, the way we competed.”
Rhode Island, which came into the game off losses to Norfolk State and Virginia Tech, is rebuilding after a 7-24 season.
Hurley is expecting some growing pains in his first season with the Rams, who have just eight eligible scholarship players.
Three others are transfers sitting out this season.
Rhode Island hit eight of its 17 shots from 3-point range to stay in the game, but was outrebounded by 10.