Buckeyes To Start Season Minus Big Man

When Ohio State unofficially gets the 2009-10 season started tonight in an exhibition game against Walsh, it will do so without one of its starters in the lineup. Find out how the Buckeyes plan to replace Dallas Lauderdale and what the team's post situation looks like going forward.

Standing at practice earlier this week, a sudden realization hit Ohio State head coach Thad Matta.

Although the Buckeyes return all five starters from last year's team, they will be without one when the 2009-10 team has its public unveiling tonight against Walsh (8 p.m.). Starting center Dallas Lauderdale suffered a broken finger shortly before camp began, and although he is expected to be ready around the time the regular season begins he will be inactive tonight.

That thought gave Matta pause for a second. Then he went back to getting senior Kyle Madsen and sophomore Zisis Sarikopoulos ready to fill Lauderdale's shoes.

Lauderdale stands 6-8, 260 pounds. Those are some big shoes to fill, but Matta said he is pleased with how the two reserves have been filling the void for Lauderdale.

"The one thing is they're getting a ton of reps," the coach said. "(Both) guys should be in ultimate shape. They're getting plenty of reps and have done a pretty good job."

Matta said Madsen will likely get the start Wednesday night owing to his overall experiencece. A 6-9, 250-pounder, Madsen transferred into the program prior to the 2006-07 season after redshirting for a year at Vanderbilt and sat out the subsequent season. After seeing action in 12 games the following season, Madsen joined the rotation as a key reserve last year and saw action in 29 games. Along the way, he earned his first career start Dec. 22, 2009 against UNC Asheville.

"He's been in the program for four years now and he's really done well," Matta said. "He's had a good couple weeks in practice and I've been very pleased with his play."

As a junior, Madsen averaged 1.3 rebounds and 1.1 points in 7.7 minutes per contest.

Also a transfer student, Sarikopoulos previously called the University of Alabama-Birmingham home before transferring to the Buckeyes prior to last season. Although he has the biggest body on the roster at 7-0, 265 pounds, Sarikopoulos is actually the youngest member of the team.

Junior forward David Lighty said each player brings a different skill set to the court.

"If Dallas comes in and sets a ball screen you're going to look for him to roll to the basket," Lighty said. "Kyle is more of a pick-and-pop type of person who spreads the defense out and Z is a guy who can post up and find cutters. They are three different players. Things are different when each one is out on the floor."

In his first season as the team's starting point guard, junior Evan Turner said he has to be aware of how defenses will look to stop the Buckeyes depending on which big man is on the court.

"I definitely think when it comes to Kyle, he opens up the lane a little bit more because he's definitely picking and popping," Turner said. "You can pretty much count on him, once you pass the ball out to him, to hit that shot. Once he hits that baseline shot, teams have to stay honest and that helps us out a lot.

"Dallas, when you throw it in it makes things better for the shooters. Both of them are great screeners and they keep people off your back."

During Monday's practice, however, Sarikopoulos was sidelined after suffering what Matta described as a minor knee injury. One day prior, the sophomore knocked knees with a teammate and the decision was made to hold him out of a day's worth of practices to allow him more time to recover.

A native of Greece, Sarikopoulos suffered a left knee sprain this summer while playing for his home country in the U-19 World Championships. This injury appears to not be related to the previous one, and Matta said he was not sure if it was the same knee.

Going forward, Matta said he has no concerns about Sarikopoulos' ability to play 20 minutes a game if needed.

"I think he's in good enough shape," the coach said. "We try to make practice harder than games and they don't get a ton of breaks in practice. With Dallas down, your three-man rotation has become a two-man rotation. Therefore, they've had to go every single possession of every single practice and in the long run I think that's helped them."

In the two open practice sessions this fall, Sarikopoulos has looked among the most winded players on the court. In his absence, 6-8, 225-pound sophomore Nikola Kecman slid from his customary power forward spot to play center.

Matta said Lauderdale was to undergo an X-ray Tuesday. After that, the hope was to be able to fit him with a protective device that could allow him to return to practice.

Regardless of who is on the court, Turner said the goal is to start fine-tuning things prior to Monday's season opener against Alcorn State.

"We're trying to come in and execute what we've been doing in practice," the junior said. "We're hoping to play team defense, push the ball in transition and get loose rebounds, take care of the ball and try to prepare for the season."

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