Buckeyes Advance In Guardians Classic

J.J. Sullinger scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds as Ohio State advanced in the Guardians Classic with an 82-50 win over Robert Morris Tuesday at Value City Arena.

At this early stage in the 2004-05 season, Ohio State just needs to play games.

The Buckeyes just need to play games together and they need to play games under the watchful eyes of their first-year head coach Thad Matta.

On Tuesday night, OSU earned the right to play two more games in the Guardians Classic. The Buckeyes jumped on visiting Robert Morris 14-2 to open the game and never looked back in posting an 82-50 win over the Colonials in the second round of the Guardians Classic before 11,762 at Value City Arena.

OSU (2-0) advances to the final four of the Guardians Classic next Tuesday and Wednesday in Kansas City.

"I thought we came out of the gate tonight and had a good focus in what we wanted to do," Matta said.

But the win did come at a price. OSU lost starting point guard Brandon Fuss-Cheatham to a sprained ankle just five minutes into the game.

"I don't know a whole lot now," Matta said. "He sprained his ankle, but I don't think it's serious. He should be able to come back Friday (against Delaware). You feel for him. It's amazing."

Matta was pleased with his team's second fine showing in as many nights. (The Buckeyes defeated Towson 74-53 in their opener Monday.)

"It was a big challenge to see how we come back on back to back nights and compete," Matta said. "I thought our guys did a good job doing that tonight."

J.J. Sullinger led the Buckeyes with 15 points and six rebounds. He was 7 of 8 from the floor.

"We got out and got some easy baskets early," Sullinger said. "Any time you can get some buckets early, the basket opens up. My teammates just put me in position to score."

With Fuss-Cheatham out, Je'Kel Foster got some minutes in the backcourt. He ended up with 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from three-point range.

"I go back to what J.J. said," Foster said. "I'm just feeding off my teammates, too, and we're playing together."

Matta added, "Je'Kel is starter for us. When he comes in, he gives us a boost. He could start as easily as anybody else. He is a proven winner. He enjoys competing."

Matt Sylvester added 11 points as well off the bench.

Terence Dials, who had a career-high 23 points in OSU's win over Towson Monday, was named the Guardians Classic Columbus Region MVP. He had 10 points, four rebounds and four assists against Robert Morris.

"Last year, we started out 0-2 on the road," Dials said. "That wasn't the type of start we wanted to have. But this year, we have a new coach, new players and a different look. Guys are energetic and ready to play. We're coming out with a chip on our shoulder because of what happened last year. We're just trying to get things done."

Ivan Harris added eight points and six rebounds for OSU. Tony Stockman had seven points, Jamar Butler added five, Fuss-Cheatham and Matt Terwilliger each had four. Matt Marinchick added three points, while Ricardo Billings and Jermyl Jackson-Wilson each had two.

The Buckeyes shot 53.2 percent (33 of 62) from the floor, including 38.1 percent (8 of 21) from behind the three-point arc. OSU had 18 assists to just seven turnovers.

"We're not where we were yesterday," Matta said. "But we're still not where we want to be."

Mark Anderson led Robert Morris with a game-high 20 points, while Chaz McCrommon added 13 points.

"Going into the game, we knew we were going to have our hands full with their size," said RMU coach Mark Schmidt. "I thought we did a decent job inside, but we didn't expect them to shoot the way they shot."

OSU got out of the blocks strong. Sullinger opened the scoring with a rebound basket. Then, after Anderson hit a jumper for Robert Morris to tie the game at 2-2, OSU reeled off the game's next 12 points to jump ahead 14-2. Fuss-Cheatham hit an 18-foot jumper. Ivan Harris then made a driving one-hander before Fuss-Cheatham scored again on a 16-footer.

Stockman made a driving one-hand shot on the baseline, Matt Terwilliger scored on a turnaround and Sullinger capped the run with a drive to the baseline and a one-handed scoop shot to put OSU up 14-2 with 14:17 left in the first half.

Anderson scored RMU's first 12 points and helped keep the Colonials in the game as they trailed 24-12 with 7:25 left in the half.

But the Buckeyes outscored RMU 16-4 to close the half and jump ahead 40-16 at the break. Stockman and Sullinger each had five points during this run with Sullinger's three-pointer off a feed from Jamar Butler with 11 seconds left giving OSU its 24-point halftime lead.

Dials had six points during the first seven minutes of the second half as the Buckeyes pushed the lead as high as 30 at 56-26. The Buckeyes enjoyed their largest lead at 32 points when Sylvester scored on a goal tend on a breakaway with 15 seconds left.

Also Notable

* The Buckeyes will play a non-tournament game Friday against Delaware at 7 p.m. at Value City Arena. That game will be televised by ESPN-Plus and on WBNS-TV (Ch. 10) in Columbus.

* Sullinger said he did not think Fuss-Cheatham's injury was serious.

"What I thought was `There's Fuss in a boot again,' " Sullinger said. "He's been in a boot every year since I've been here. But he'll be back. It's a minor injury. He's strong. He'll be all right."

* OSU's opponent at the Guardians Classic final four next week was to be determined next week. It was likely to be Creighton, Missouri or a wild-card selection from the teams that finished 1-1 at the regional sites.

* OSU is now 40-1 all-time at Value City Arena when it shoots 50 percent or better. The Buckeyes are now 79-20 all-time in their seventh season at VCA.

* This was the first time OSU has won a game by 30 or more points since it beat Santa Clara 88-41 on Dec. 12, 2001, at VCA – a span of 90 games.

* The start of Tuesday's game was delayed a half hour as the evening's opening game went two overtimes before Towson disposed of Morgan State 71-69.

"It was a long night," Matta said. "I gave them four motivational speeches. I brought them in and sent them back out."

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