Basketball Buckeyes Gear For Long Road Trip

The OSU men's basketball team is preparing for a season opening road trip to San Francisco, then on to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational.

While most of the focus in the Ohio State Nation this week is on the regular season-ending football game at Michigan, another OSU program will open its regular season this weekend.

Jim O'Brien's men's basketball team will open the year late Friday night at San Francisco, a trip designed in conjunction with OSU's participation in the EA Sports Maui Invitational next Monday through Wednesday.

It is a road trip that will take the Buckeyes some 4,500 miles from Columbus to Hawaii and back. It will be a unique experience for the Buckeyes, who last played in Hawaii at the Rainbow Classic in 1997.

But O'Brien would just as soon stay in the friendly confines of Value City Arena.

"I wish the first game was here," O'Brien said after OSU's exhibition loss to the EA Sports All-Stars last Thursday. "I wish the first 25 games were here."

That exhibition loss put a bit of a damper on OSU's preparation for the season-opening trip.

"We have so many high expectations," said sophomore forward Matt Sylvester. "Maybe we let it go to our heads. I think this shows that we have to come out and play every single night.

"We need to go on this trip and get three or four wins and hopefully come back with the Maui championship. We need to go out to San Francisco and Hawaii and play the best we can."

One Buckeye who can't wait for the season to start is sophomore power forward Terence Dials. The 6-9 Dials had not played competitively since last December due to back problems. He averaged 14 points and seven rebounds in OSU's two exhibition games.

"It's going to be exciting," Dials said. "We are all excited to finally play a regular season game."

Another Buckeye eager for the year to start is sophomore small forward J.J. Sullinger, who averaged 21.5 points per game in the two exhibitions. Sullinger, a transfer from Arkansas, will be making his OSU debut Friday night.

"This should be a great learning experience for all of us," Sullinger said. "I've been on the road before but never with Ohio State. Hawaii will be a great place to be, but we have to remember we are going to play basketball and win games. I've never been to San Francisco or Hawaii before, but this is not a vacation by any means. It is a business trip and we're going there to win games."

OSU looked impressive in its exhibition opener against the Coaches vs. Cancer All-Stars. But they took a step back against EA Sports, a sign that this team is far from a finished product.

"If you look up and down our roster, we don't have a lot of guys who have been in winning situations at this level," O'Brien said. "One of the big things we've got to do is our guys have got to learn how to win. That is all part of the growth process and part of what we have to work through."

The coaching staff is banking on this four-game road trip bringing the team together.

"We are looking forward to a great trip," said associate head coach Rick Boyages. "I know Jim said he would prefer the first dozen or so games at home. It will be interesting. We got off to a great start in the first exhibition and played a fun brand of ball. But then we struggled (in the second exhibition). I think we had some selfishness and showed some immaturity.

"We have a lot of young kids we are trying to blend together. I think the point about us spending a lot of time together on the road will help in that regard."

Trip Notes

* The Buckeyes will depart from Columbus on Wednesday en route for San Francisco. The team will practice in San Francisco on Thursday before playing USF Friday night at 8 p.m. Pacific time/11 p.m. Eastern.

The team will then rise and shine Saturday and fly to Maui. A team spokesman said they hope to be able to watch at least some of the OSU-Michigan football game while waiting for their plane at the airport.

They will participate in a media day at Maui on Sunday before playing Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The team will waste no time coming home on Wednesday night. The team will fly from Hawaii to Los Angeles, to Chicago and on to Columbus, arriving back home late in the afternoon on Thursday, which will also be Thanksgiving day.

* The game with San Francisco will be the first ever in school history. It will be televised in Columbus by WBNS-TV (Ch. 10), although it will not be picked up until 11:35 p.m. due to local news commitments. The station will air game updates during the course of the newscast before joining the game in progress after the news.

* The Maui Invitational will be played in the 2,400-seat Lahaina Civic Center.

OSU opens tournament play against San Diego State, coached by former Michigan coach Steve Fisher, at 9 p.m. Eastern time Monday night. That game will be televised nationally by ESPN2.

The winner of that game will face the winner of the Dayton-Central Michigan game at 7 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN.

The loser of that game will play in the tournament third-place game at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and that game will be televised by ESPN2.

The winner of that Tuesday game will advance to the tournament title game at 9:30 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday. That game will be televised by ESPN2.

The first-round match-ups on the other side of the bracket are Chaminade-Villanova and Hawaii-Santa Clara.

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