Buckeyes Prevail Over Towson In Matta's Debut

Terence Dials scored 23 points and grabbed six rebounds as Ohio State opened the Thad Matta era with a 74-53 win over Towson in a Guardians Classic first round game Monday night. Click here for more.

The Thad Matta Era began in a big way Monday night as Ohio State defeated Towson 74-53 in an opening round game of the Guardians Classic before 11,185 at Value City Arena.

Terence Dials led the Buckeyes with a career-high 23 points and six rebounds. J.J. Sullinger and Tony Stockman each had 12 points, while Ja'Kel Foster added nine points off the bench in his OSU debut.

"I thought tonight we were able to sustain our effort a little bit longer," Matta said. "Defensively, I was pretty pleased with the way we were able to keep the heat on the ball. Our positioning was better for longer in the game."

OSU held Towson to 31.4 percent shooting from the floor (16 of 51), including 22.2 percent (6 of 27) from three-point range. Mike Green was the only Towson player in double figures, finishing with 10 points.

The Buckeyes advanced to play Robert Morris, which was a 68-49 winner over Morgan State Monday. That game will be played at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Dials was 8 of 11 from the floor and 7 of 11 at the foul line.

"Everybody was looking inside," Dials said. "All of my teammates did a good job of getting me the ball inside. We moved the ball well, something we didn't do last week. That's a credit to my teammates."

OSU was 50 percent from the floor, hitting 27 of 54 shots from the field. OSU held a narrow 33-32 edge in rebounding.

"One thing I wasn't pleased with early was our rebounding," Matta said. "I thought we were more concerned with running than rebounding. They had eight offensive rebounds in the first half. We've got to get that corrected."

Brandon Fuss-Cheatham, playing less than two weeks since the death of his mother in a car accident, started at point guard and had six points and four assists in 28 minutes.

"My hat's off to Brandon," Fuss-Cheatham said. "Since he's been back with us, it's been real good. I know there are tough moments in his day. But he's obviously got that leadership and he's a guy who understands how to play. He made us go tonight."

Matt Sylvester added six points and five assists off the bench. Jamar Butler had four points in his OSU debut and Ivan Harris rounded out the scoring with two points.

OSU capitalized on 13 Towson turnovers in building a 37-23 halftime lead. Dials had 12 points and Sullinger added 10 in the first 20 minutes for OSU.

Ivan Harris made the first basket of the Matta era, scoring off a driving jumper in the lane shortly after Towson's Mike Green had opened the game with a three-pointer. OSU moved ahead for good on Sullinger's three-pointer from the left corner off a feed from Matt Sylvester. That put the Buckeyes up 9-7.

The Sullinger three-pointer started a 20-6 OSU run that allowed the Buckeyes to build the lead to 26-13 with 9:26 left in the half. The run was highlighted by a Sullinger layup off a Sylvester feed, Sullinger's three-point play off a driving bank shot and Stockman's trey from the top of the key. Freshman guard Jamar Butler capped the run with a driving bank shot.

Matta showed his fiery side moments later when Towson's Winstonn Tubbs scored inside off a third-chance rebound. He immediately called a 30-second time out to discuss the matter with his team. Green that completed a three-point play to cut the OSU lead to 26-18 with 7:34 left in the half.

But the Buckeyes outscored the Tigers 11-5 over the remainder of the half. Dials got that run started with a bank shot off an inbounds pass. Fuss-Cheatham added a driving layup. Dials scored again inside. Fuss-Cheatham added a layup off a feed from Sullinger. Dials capped the half by making one of two free throws with 3.2 seconds left to give the Buckeyes their biggest lead of the half at 37-23.

OSU opened the second half with a 14-5 run, keyed by seven points from Stockman, to push the lead to 51-28 with 15:15 left. Stockman then made a driving one-hander in the lane to put the Buckeyes up 56-30 with 12:19 left.

Towson then whittled the lead down to 56-38 after a trey by Green with 8:58 left. But the Buckeyes responded with an 18-8 spurt. Foster canned three three-pointers during this stretch and, after Dials scored off a rebound with 4:20 left, the Buckeyes had their biggest lead of the night at 74-46.

Also Notable

* OSU improved to 5-1 all-time in season openers at Value City Arena.

* In Monday's opener, Robert Morris jumped out to a 34-20 halftime lead and cruised to the 19-point win. Maurice Carter led RMU with 22 points on 4-of-7 shooting from three-point range. Joseph Ison added 14 points, while Chaz McCrommon added 10 points and eight rebounds.

* Matta believes his team will be up to play Robert Morris on a quick turnaround.

"We'll be ready," he said. "We'll be prepared for Robert Morris and what they throw at us. How we adapt to it will be my focus now."

A win would send OSU to the Guardians Classic final four next Tuesday and Wednesday in Kansas City. It would also give the Buckeyes two more games.

"With these guys, I'm not concerned with who we're playing or when we're playing," Matta said. "I'm more concerned with how we're playing at this stage."

* Dials' previous career high was 22 points, which he has done twice (last time against Indiana in 2004).

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