Buckeyes Bounce Findlay In First Exhibition

Ron Lewis had 17 points and four members of Ohio State's vaunted recruiting class made their debuts as the Buckeyes, ranked fourth in the initial USA Today coaches poll, took a 80-57 win over Division II Findlay in their exhibition opener. Click this free link for more.

The early moments of Ohio State's men's basketball exhibition match-up with Division II Findlay weren't exactly pretty.

The Buckeyes, ranked fourth nationally in the initial USA Today coaches poll, watched as Findlay grabbed early leads of 8-3 and 10-6. But OSU coach Thad Matta inserted several members of his highly touted recruiting class at the game's first media timeout.

The result was a 19-2 run that gave Ohio State a comfortable lead it never relinquished in what became an 80-57 opening exhibition win before an announced crowd of 14,173 Wednesday night at Value City Arena.

"We were over on the bench and we just thought about what we needed to do," said OSU freshman guard Daequan Cook, one member of the so-called "Thad Five." "We took it up another notch."

Matta saw some good and bad from OSU's first exhibition game. His team led 43-33 at halftime before breaking the game open by outscoring the Oilers 37-24 in the second half.

"I think you can see we have a long way to go," Matta said. "This game, we were not ready for it, but we were ready for it so we could get a lot of questions in my mind answered. We did some good things and we did some bad things.

"From a defensive standpoint, we weren't as tough and resilient as we need to be off the ball. Offensively, we don't have a lot in. We probably didn't look as fluent as we need to be at this moment. We knew it wasn't going to be pretty offensively."

The Buckeyes opened without 7-0 freshman center Greg Oden, who will be sidelined possibly until Jan. 1 as he recovers from wrist surgery. Without Oden, the nation's No. 1 recruit this past year, patrolling the paint, OSU was outrebounded 39-30 and gave up 34 points in the key.

"I've got an answer coming," Matta said with a smile, referring to Oden's eventual return. "We have to continue to help out and build it. It has to be more important to us."

Senior guard Ron Lewis, a member of last year's 26-6 Big Ten championship team, led the Buckeyes with 17 points. He hit 6 of 10 shots from the floor and 3 of 6 from the three-point arc.

"It feels similar (to last year)," Lewis said of leading a team of newcomers. "It's just different people. The pace is fine. I'm just playing with different people."

Of the newcomers, Cook was tops with 13 points and eight rebounds.

"The difference between play high school ball and playing college ball is the up-tempo pace," said Cook, who helped guide Dayton Dunbar to a state championship at VCA last spring. "There are a lot more picks. It's a more physical game. We just had to listen to our seniors and our captains. That made it easier for us."

JUCO transfer Othello Hunter had 11 points and four rebounds, while freshman guard Mike Conley Jr. tallied 10 points and seven assists.

"I know my role is not to score," Conley said. "I am supposed to be a play maker. We have a lot of shooters with Daequan and Ron and David (Lighty). They can all shoot. It's my job to dish to them. I know they can knock down the shots."

Lighty, another freshman guard, chipped in nine points and two steals. Junior Matt Terwilliger, filling in for Oden in the post, had nine points and four rebounds.

The starters for the first exhibition were Lewis, Conley, Terwilliger, junior Jamar Butler and senior Ivan Harris.

Findlay, ranked sixth in Division II, had four starters back from a 25-5 team from a year ago. Frank Phillips led Findlay with 14 points and nine rebounds, while Brent Schnipke had 13 points and eight boards.

Findlay actually grabbed early leads of 8-3 and 10-6 before the Buckeyes came alive. This is where the Buckeyes embarked on their 19-2 run. Lewis got it started with a trey. Hunter then grabbed a rebound and put it in on his first touch as a Buckeye. After a layup by Findlay's Marcus Parker, OSU reeled off 14 straight points.

Lighty hit a three off a Cook feed. Cook then had a steal and a one-handed dunk. Hunter then had a two-handed flush off a Lighty miss. Cook splashed a three. Conley made two free throws and then capped the run with a layup off a steal for a 25-12 lead with 10:46 left in the half.

The lead moved to 14 at 28-14 on a Terwilliger three-pointer with 9:51 left. Findlay went on a 9-3 rally keyed by four points each from Frank Phillips and Dorian Bass to cut the lead to 31-23 with 5:17 left in the half.

The Buckeyes got the lead back up to 39-27 as Lewis had a layup off his own steal and a Conley assist and Lighty made a pair of free throws. OSU ended up ahead 43-33 at halftime.

Findlay got the lead down to six early in the half at 45-39 after Schnipke made a spinning reverse with 18:27 left.

The Buckeyes then went on a 17-4 run over the next six minutes to give themselves some breathing room. This run was keyed by a Butler three-pointer, a Conley baseline drive, a Cook trey and a Hunter slam on an inbounds pass. That play put OSU up 62-43 with 11:26 left.

Conley kept the pressure on with a driving layup and then a steal. He threw a long behind the back pass to Lewis, who missed a three. But Conley was all alone underneath and stuck in the miss. Cook then went coast-to-coast and made a driving bank shot in traffic for a 70-47 lead with 6:27 left.

Lewis' three-point play with 3:09 left gave the Buckeyes their biggest lead at 75-51.

Walk-on Samuel Payne made sure that every OSU team member got in the scorebook when he splashed a three-pointer with eight seconds left. Payne played just two minutes, meaning that playing time for OSU's eight scholarship players ranged from 16 minutes for Harris up to 31 for Conley

Also Notable

* Butler is OSU's lone returning starter after averaging 10.1 points per game a year ago. But he deferred to his younger teammates in the first exhibition, spending some time at the off guard as Conley took over the point. He took just three shots, making one, and finished with five points and four turnovers in 30 minutes.

"He has been very good in practice," Matta said. "This was just one of those games where it wasn't there. I need him to score and have high assists and he'll get that. I'm not worried about Jamar."

* Oden watched the game in street clothes from the bench and encouraged his teammates throughout.

"That's what I love about him," Matta said. "During practices and everything, he sees things well. He's got great perspective."

Conley, who played AAU ball and high school ball with Oden in Indianapolis, could not recall the last time he took the floor without his friend also in uniform.

"I can't even tell you how long it's been since we haven't played together," Conley said. "We have been practicing as a team without him. I am used to playing with this team now."

Reporters asked Conley, who rooms with Oden, what the prognosis is for his return.

"We don't know," Conley said. "We really don't know. We hope he comes back soon. We want him to come back at 100 percent. We don't want to rush him. We just want him to be back for the team."

Oden sported a scarlet colored cast on his right wrist.

"It's the same as he has been doing all along," Matta said. "It will be immobilized a couple of more weeks."

Conley added, "We will be a lot better team in the second half of the season when we get Greg back."

* OSU wraps up exhibition play Sunday at 1 p.m. against Walsh. That game will not be televised. OSU opens regular season play with the three-game BCA Classic next weekend. The tournament opener will be against VMI at Nov. 10 at Value City Arena.

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