A Must-Win Already For OSU Basketball?

The OSU men's basketball team will try and put its season-opening loss behind it with tonight's first-round game against San Diego State in the Maui Invitational (9 p.m., ESPN2).

Following a season-opening loss at San Francisco Friday night, it sounds strange to say it – especially on Nov. 24 – but Ohio State may be in a must-win situation against San Diego State tonight in the first round of the Maui Invitational (9 p.m., ESPN2).

The Buckeyes blew into Hawaii after a contentious, foul-plagued 76-65 loss at USF on Friday night. They can ill afford any more "bad" losses on this trip.

"It was important to play a real game before getting over here, despite the dangers of going on the road like that," OSU coach Jim O'Brien said at Sunday's media day. "We paid the price for it. It's our own fault. But if I had to do it over again, I'd still play it.

"Our team didn't play very well and I got tossed. We're in a little bit of a shambles right now."

Few things went OSU's way in the opener as a West Coast crew of officials seemed to give them no respect. Center Velimir Radinovic fouled out after just 12 minutes. O'Brien, himself, was ejected after receiving two technical fouls. O'Brien, who is having voice problems after undergoing throat surgery in the off-season, got one of his T's after scribbling a note on a pad that read "This is sad" and showing it to an official.

J.J. Sullinger and Tony Stockman each scored well in their OSU debuts, netting 24 and 22 points, respectively. Sullinger, a transfer from Arkansas, connected on 9-of-11 shots from the floor, including 4-of-5 3-point attempts. Stockman made 8-of-16 field goal attempts and 3-of-7 3-pointers. Their offensive efforts were not enough to overcome the Dons' foul shooting advantage. San Francisco went to the line 41 times, making 27 attempts. Ohio State managed 26 foul shots, converting just 12.

O'Brien is hopeful to have small forward Matt Sylvester back sometime soon. He missed the opener with a broken bone on the outside of the small toe on his foot. He was listed as day to day.

"Our team is crawling right now," O'Brien said. "We're trying to get everyone under the same umbrella. (SDSU) is very good with some very talented and athletic young players. I'm confident they will have a very good season. And I think in time we will be a good team."

San Diego State, coached by former Michigan coach Steve Fisher, opened its season with a 74-44 win over Long Beach State Friday night. A pair of freshmen came through for the Aztecs as 6-9 freshman forward Marcus Slaughter had 19 points and 6-3 Brandon Heath added 12 points. Missouri transfer Wesley Stokes, known for his dreadlocks, had 17 points, six assists and four steals. The Aztecs shot just 38 percent, but held the 49ers to 29 percent and 1-of-14 on threes.

"When you play a Big Ten team, you know you're getting quality," said SDSU coach Steve Fisher. "Even though we haven't played one another, I've watched Jim O'Brien's teams in the past and he does a superlative job. We know we are facing a quality opponent in every regard. I'm anxious to see how we do against a really good team like this."

The Maui Invitational opened Friday with an upset as host Chaminade, a Division II team, defeated Villanova 52-49. The winner of the OSU-SDSU game will play the winner of today's 5 p.m. game between Dayton and Central Michigan. Late in the first half of that game (on ESPN2), Dayton had built a 35-23 halftime lead. That second round game will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN. The losers of these two games will play at 2 p.m. Tuesday. That game will not be televised.

Santa Clara and Hawaii will wrap up the first round later with the winner ticketed to meet Chaminade Tuesday. The finals and consolation games will be played Wednesday.

Keys To Watch For

It will be interesting tonight to see:

* If point guard Brandon Fuss-Cheatham can play productively, going head to head with SDSU's veteran Stokes. He was 1 of 8 from the floor with three points in 34 minutes against USF.

* If inside men Radinovic (two points) and Terence Dials (five points) can contribute more offensively and stay out of foul trouble.

* If OSU can find some help off the bench, particularly if Sylvester can't go. Five reserves combined for 46 minutes against USF and scored just nine combined points, seven of those coming from a debuting Ricardo Billings.


Buckeye Sports Top Stories