Buckeyes Pass Season-Opening Test In NIT

Ohio State put its exhibition loss to Findlay firmly in the rearview mirror, placed four players in double figures and rolled to a 91-68 victory over Wisconsin-Green Bay in the opening round of the preseason NIT.

As season openers go, Ohio State head coach Thad Matta couldn't have asked for a whole lot more.

He watched as his Buckeyes went on runs of 22-6 in the first half and 23-8 to start the second half, place four players in double figures and run away from Wisconsin-Green Bay with a 91-68 victory. The contest served as one of the opening round contests of the preseason NIT.

"I thought our guys came out and played with a little more intensity tonight," Matta said. "We were able to do a good job of taking care of the basketball tonight.

"We're not where we need to be yet, and it will be good to see how we can come back tomorrow night."

The Buckeyes were led in scoring by sophomore guard David Lighty, who had 21 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the floor. As a team, OSU shot 52.2 percent (35 for 67) from the field, and 45.8 percent (11 for 24) from three-point range.

Joining Lighty in double figures was freshman center Kosta Koufos with 18 points. Senior point guard Jamar Butler and forward Othello Hunter each added 17. Koufos also had a team-high eight rebounds while Butler passed out 10 assists.

Despite the offensive barrage, Butler said the game also represented a good effort by the Buckeyes defensively.

"We played a lot of zone tonight," Butler said. "That was a game-time decision when Coach said we were going to play zone tonight. I think we had five guys playing defense tonight. The other night, we saw in the film that a lot of guys took plays off. We had five guys playing together tonight."

The other night to which Butler was referring was the 70-68 exhibition loss Nov. 6 to Findlay.

"We didn't expect seeing a zone tonight, so give Thad credit for that," said UW-Green Bay head coach Tod Kowalczyk. "We played pretty well for the first 10 minutes, but we just lost our intensity against the zone. We just had problems with it."

Phoenix guard Mike Schachtner led his team with 17 points, but he was the only UW-Green Bay player in double figures. Forward Terry Evans grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds for the Phoenix.

Green Bay managed only 36.9 percent from the field, making just 24 of 65 shots. The team's three-point shooting netted only 7 of 28 shots (25.0 percent) for the game.

The teams traded early flurries back and forth, including a half-dozen three-pointers in the first 11 field goals. By the time the long-range barrage was over, the score was tied at 15 with 13:28 remaining.

Wisconsin-Green Bay then went on a 7-2 run, the last five coming from Fletcher. But the Buckeyes took control from there. After falling behind 22-17 with 10:36 left until the break, OSU scored the next 10 points on a three from Koufos, jumpers from Butler and Hunter, and an old-fashioned three-point play from Lighty.

That made it 27-22 in favor for the Buckeyes with 8:24 left and they cruised to a 46-34 halftime lead from there.

OSU made 8 of 13 three-point shots in the first half, good for 61.5 percent. Downtown was so hot for the Buckeyes that Koufos dropped both of his attempts and Matt Terwilliger also had a trey.

The onslaught continued in the second half as Ohio State continued to build on its lead, outscoring the Phoenix 12-2 in the first 3½ minutes to go up by 22 at 58-36 at the 16:15 mark.

The Buckeyes pushed their lead to as much as 30 points after freshman Dallas Lauderdale made a free throw to make it 91-61 with 3:13 remaining in the game. Green Bay then scored the final seven points to account for the final.

OSU (1-0) hosts Columbia tomorrow night. The Lions were 47-41 winners over Delaware State in the other opening-round NIT game at Value City Arena.

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