With usual home Value City Arena already booked due to a Reba McEntire/Kelly Clarkson concert, the Buckeyes made the trip down Lane Ave. to take on the Hornets in St. John Arena. The result was an easy season-opening victory against an overmatched opponent playing its second game in as many days.
"It was a step in the right direction, but we've got a long way to go," OSU head coach Thad Matta said.
The Buckeyes (1-0) never trailed during the contest. Junior forward David Lighty got things rolling with a shot near the basket, and from there the question was simply how high the OSU lead would stretch.
Employing a trapping zone for the second straight year, the Buckeyes were able to seize control early by making life miserable for the Delaware State guards. On their first nine possessions, the Hornets turned the ball over six times and allowed the home team to jump out to a 15-3 lead.
Delaware State's shooting from beyond the arc would help keep the score respectable for much of the game, but the final outcome was never in doubt.
"I think Ohio State had a lot to do with it," Delaware State head coach Greg Jackson said. "We knew coming in we wanted to get off to a good start. They had a 15-3 run and it was uphill from there. That's a very good basketball team."
The Hornets (1-4) had played Dayton one night earlier.
Sophomore Dallas Lauderdale was the star of the game for the Buckeyes. A bit player a season ago, he earned his first career start and finished with seven points and a game-high seven blocks including two on one Delaware State second-half possession.
After that possession, he ran back toward the student section behind his team's basket and urged the crowd on, clapping his hands and yelling at them. When he was removed from the game with 4:03 remaining, he was treated to a standing ovation.
"It was just a pumped-up moment for me," Lauderdale said. "I was just pumped up, getting back-to-back blocks, causing a 35-second violation. That was a big stop for our team, and that's what we needed at that time."
Mullens and Lauderdale never played on the court at the same time, but Matta said they would play together this season. Each did team up with junior Kyle Madsen as OSU alternated between playing three or four guards.
The Hornets entered the game with a height disadvantage. Three players on their roster are listed at 6-7 – a full five inches shorter than freshman center B.J. Mullens, the tallest man on the OSU roster. That hurt them early, as the Buckeyes outscored the Hornets 12-2 in the paint in the first 20 minutes and 18-10 during the game.
Despite the height advantage, OSU was outrebounded, 26-25.
Lauderdale got the start because he had earned it after coming back from injury, Matta said.
"Dallas has been good this week," Matta said. "He's got a little bit more experience. I loved the way he was playing before he went down with the injury. He was tremendous in his rehab and staying in shape. He really did a great job."
The Buckeyes led 35-22 at the half, but only a spate of late three-pointers by the visitors made it that close. The home squad was not helped by a 7:33 stretch in the first half that saw OSU miss four shots from the field and go 5 for 8 from the charity stripe.
"At the end of the first half we got kind of lackadaisical," Lighty said. "We needed to start cutting and moving more. We look good when we flow and play Ohio State basketball. It's just about us playing for 40 minutes and not having ups and downs."
The drought was broken by Mullens' first career field goal, a jumper near the basket that made it 33-19 Buckeyes with 59 seconds remaining in the half.
The freshman pegged as an early contender to be the No. 1 pick in next year's NBA draft, Mullens had seven points and three rebounds in 20 minutes of action. When the Buckeyes put their second-team unit in for the final minutes, Mullens remained on the court before being removed with about 45 seconds left when the walk-ons were inserted.
As a team, the Buckeyes forced 20 turnovers and committed seven of their own, turning those Delaware State miscues into 18 points.
With their minds perhaps elsewhere, the student section began singing "We Don't Give A Damn For The Whole State Of Michigan" with 3:20 remaining and the home team comfortably ahead 67-40. On Nov. 22, the Buckeyes will host rival Michigan in the final regular-season football game of the year for both teams.