At Home On The Road

It was an interesting situation. Taking to the road for an in-state game for the first time since the 1998-99 season, Ohio State was playing Cleveland State on a neutral site located a stone's throw away from the Vikings' home court. The end result was more of a home game than many expected.

CLEVELAND – So was it or was it not a road game?

In the wake of Ohio State's convincing 80-63 victory against Cleveland State, the answer to that question depended on who you asked. Although the Buckeyes had to bus north from Columbus while the Vikings could have walked to the arena from their campus, it was billed as a game being played on a neutral court.

But upon entering Quicken Loans Arena, that seemed to be very much in doubt. Souvenir stands were selling clothing sporting both teams with a line drawn down the middle: Half OSU, half CSU. The side selling clothing for the Buckeyes even sported football jerseys with a $90 price tag.

Inside the arena, the crowd of 12,715 had a decidedly scarlet tinge. More than 40 minutes before tip-off, chants of "O-H!" and "I-O!" rang out from around the arena.

By the time both teams came out for the game, it became apparent that aside from a few formalities this would not be a road game for the Buckeyes, who wore their scarlet road jerseys.

CSU's pep band played for the crowd and the Vikings were the last team announced during warm-ups, but the semblance of that being a home game for them ended there.

Of course, it helped that the Buckeyes jumped out to a 17-3 lead and were never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

"I think we were a little intimidated a little bit by the atmosphere," CSU head coach Gary Waters said. "It wasn't everyone, just a few guys. Certain people were a little intimidated, but you know what? I expect that to happen early. We're going to learn from this game. This is going to be a big learning experience."

That much was evident early on. One day prior to the contest, OSU freshman forward Dallas Lauderdale, a native of the Cleveland area, told reporters that he had been hearing a lot of talk from friends back home. The thought was that this was being viewed as one of the most important games in the history of the CSU program, and that the Buckeyes had better be ready to take the best shot the Vikings had to offer.

But five early turnovers during the early OSU run seemed to indicate that it was the Vikings who needed the warning to be ready. Any chances of turning what already was an OSU-leaning crowd dissipated early.

"This was a big game, but it was just another learning process," CSU junior forward J'Nathan Bullock said.

Still, freshman center Kosta Koufos said the contest had the feeling of a road game.

"Every time we travel, we've got to put it in our minds that it's going to be a road game," he said.

The Buckeyes have been in this situation before this season and they were also successful then. Playing in the NIT Season Tip-Off, OSU drew the task of playing Syracuse at Madison Square Garden in New York City – a de facto home game for the Orange.

Not surprisingly, that game featured a largely orange-clad crowd. This time, though, things were different.

"We had a lot of Ohio State fans," freshman guard Evan Turner said. "This game was on a neutral site, but of course people like Ohio State and they like Cleveland State. We've got the best fans in the land and that helped out a lot. They showed up."

For players like sophomore swingman David Lighty and Koufos, the game seemed like home for other reasons. Lighty is a native of Cleveland, while Koufos hails from nearby Akron. Lighty said he had 200 friends and family members in attendance, while Koufos claimed 150 persons on hand to watch him.

Not surprisingly, Lighty said it did not feel like a road game – to him, at least.

"Not really to me because I was home and a lot of people were here for me," he said with a laugh. "To me, it wasn't really a road game."

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