But Cook has found his niche with the Buckeyes as their sixth man. On Monday night, he came off the bench to tally 20 points and grab five rebounds as fourth-ranked Ohio State cruised to an 82-60 win over visiting San Francisco before 14,592 at Value City Arena.
It marked the third time in five games that Cook, who was 8 of 13 from the floor, has led the Buckeyes (5-0) in scoring this season.
When asked about bringing Cook off the bench, OSU coach Thad Matta said, "I love it. He comes in games and gives us a great jolt of energy. Quite honestly, one of the big concerns we had with him early on was foul trouble. He had that in our two exhibitions.
"This gives him a better understanding of what's going on out there. He actually said, ‘I don't mind doing it.' He seems fine with it."
Cook and fellow subs Ivan Harris and Matt Terwilliger entered the game with OSU struggling early. The Buckeyes made just four of their first 16 shots from the floor, before going on a tear that led to a 45-29 halftime lead.
"I think our defense started generating more opportunities for us," said Matta, whose team had 20 assists and seven steals against just six turnovers. "Those got us a couple more easy baskets and relaxed us a little bit.
"We felt like we wanted to move the ball and make San Francisco make decisions defensively. We had that at times tonight."
Ron Lewis added 15 points, while point guard Mike Conley added 12 points, nine assists and six rebounds in 35 minutes.
"It's more of my job to run the offense," said Conley, who was 5 of 8 from the floor. "I take whatever they give me at the time. I try to get open shots."
Othello Hunter added nine points and 10 rebounds for the Buckeyes. David Lighty chipped in eight points and eight rebounds. Harris had seven points and six rebounds. Jamar Butler had six points and seven assists. Terwilliger rounded out OSU's scoring with five points.
Armondo Surratt led USF (2-2) with 15 points, while Alan Wiggins had 13 points and Antonio Kellogg and Manny Quezada each had 11 points.
"Ohio State is a little bit better defensive team than I anticipated," said USF coach Jessie Evans. "We were able emulate some of their quickness, but I think some of their length surprised us a little bit."
OSU made just one of its first seven shots from the floor, allowing USF to remain within contact through much of the first 10 minutes. Quezada's bank shot helped cut OSU's lead to 17-16 with 10:12 left in the first half.
The Buckeyes embarked on a 21-7 run over the next six-plus minutes. This is where Conley and Butler came to the forefront. Conley had a nifty one-handed reverse off a Butler steal. Seconds later, Butler buried a three off a Conley feed. Butler later found Conley on a lob. Conley laid it in, was fouled and made the free throw. Terwilliger capped the run when he scored off a Conley pass in transition to make it 38-23 with 3:42 left in the half.
"Coach got on us during one of the timeouts after we lost a four-minute war," Conley said. "We took it to heart and we all came out and played a lot harder and made a lot of open shots.
"We did a lot of pick-and-rolls. If they went under the ball screen, Coach told me to beat my man. They went under the screen and I was able to do that a couple of times."
Hunter gave OSU its biggest lead of the half when he jammed in a wild Lighty miss with 32 seconds left, putting the Buckeyes up 45-29.
USF drew as close as 11 at 49-38 after a Surratt layup with 16:52 left. Ohio State then reeled off 15 straight points to put the game away. Cook started it with a fadeaway three from the right wing. Butler then threw a lob to Cook in transition. Cook hauled it in and jammed it with one hand, bringing an otherwise quiet crowd alive.
"I'm used to dunks like that," Cook said. "Coming from high school, most of the times when you can get a dunk like that to go it gets the crowd going."
Butler then fed Cook and Harris for back-to-back threes. Harris then made a pair of free throws and tallied on a rebound basket to put the Buckeyes up 64-38 with 12:25 left.
Lewis gave OSU its biggest lead on a three-point play that put the Buckeyes up 71-41 with 9:38 left.
* OSU has won its last 23 nonconference home games, going 9-0 each of the last two years and 5-0 this year. OSU's last home nonconference loss was to Texas Tech on Jan. 4, 2004.
* OSU is now 2-2 all-time against West Coast Conference teams, including 1-1 against USF. The Buckeyes dropped their season opener at USF 76-65 in November 2003.
* Under Matta, OSU is now 36-3 at home and 22-0 against nonconference foes at VCA.
* Ohio State has one more tune-up before its Nov. 29 showdown at No. 2 North Carolina as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Buckeyes host Youngstown State Friday night at Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus (8 p.m., ESPN-Plus). The game will be OSU's "dry run" for hosting NCAA Tournament action at Nationwide.
"It's going to be a challenge because we're not where we want to be," Butler said. "We just need to keep working hard in practice. If we do that and keep playing within the system, we'll be fine."
Matta added, "We have a long way to go, but I think we're making progress. I was a little bit upset about a couple segments we had tonight. We need to get those out of our system."