Due to commencement ceremonies at the Schottenstein Center, a crowd of about 7,000 visited St. John to witness a game that Ohio State led by as many as 35. Those who bought $10 tickets paid less than a dollar per Buckeye, as Thad Matta used 11 players, substituting early and often. Five Buckeyes reached double figures, including a season-high 13 by senior center Dallas Lauderdale. Eight Buckeyes scored in all.
The Buckeyes opened the game on a 13-2 run, highlighted by 3-pointers by senior guard Jon Diebler and freshman forward DeShaun Thomas. The lead grew to 18-4 on a 3-point basket by OSU senior forward David Lighty, before senior guard Mike Williams answered for Western Carolina. The Buckeyes continued to feed their hungry beast Sullinger throughout the first half, with the freshman getting to the line repeatedly and abusing Western Carolina’s post players, especially forward Richie Gordon, who picked up three fouls in the opening half.
The Buckeye lead grew to 17 on a Sullinger drive to make it 26-9. Back-to-back Lauderdale dunks gave Ohio State a 19-point lead and got the St. John Arena crowd buzzing. A Buford 3-pointer gave the Buckeyes their largest lead of the first half at 40-20, and they cruised to a 42-25 halftime advantage.
Western Carolina freshman guard Trey Sumler and Williams did their best to keep the game close in the first half, scoring seven and five points, respectively, and Western Carolina was able to win the rebounding battle in the first half, by an 18-10 margin. But the Buckeye defense forced 14 first-half turnovers, and Ohio State didn’t commit one, taking command by attempting five more field goals and 13 more free throws than the Catamounts. The Buckeyes shot 48% from the field and 75% from the line in the first half.
Diebler opened the scoring with a 3-pointer on the first possession, off a Buford assist. The Buckeyes started the second half on a 10-3 run and then began liberally using their bench. Freshman guard Jordan Sibert scored six points in 18 minutes and freshman forward J.D. Weatherspoon added seven points in nine minutes. Freshman guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. played nine minutes but did not score.
An impressive showing by Williams kept the Catamounts from utter embarrassment. Williams scored 22 points, leading three Western Carolina players who reached double figures, but he was the only Catamounts starter to score more than two points, and 17 of his points came in the second half when the Buckeyes were playing mostly freshmen. Starting guard Keaton Cole and Gordon each failed to score on a combined 11 field goal attempts.
Matta was able to rest his players, as no Buckeye played more than 25 minutes. With nine minutes to play, Lauderdale was on the floor with four freshmen. Diebler, Buford and Lighty especially saw a lot of the bench in the second half.
Notes: OSU can equal its second best start under Matta with one more win…Diebler’s two 3-pointers extended his streak to 24 straight games with at least one 3-point field goal. He is just one behind former Indiana Hoosier A.J. Guyton for seventh on the all-time Big Ten list…Matta was an assistant coach at Western Carolina when they reached the NCAA tournament as a 16th seed and lost by only two points to top seed Purdue…Walk-on senior guard Eddie Days played in his first game of the season, going 0-for-1 from the field in the final minute of the game…The Catamounts have never beaten a Big Ten opponent (0-12) and are winless against ranked teams (0-36). Ohio State will be back in action on Wednesday, when they return to the Schottenstein Center to face Florida Gulf Coast at 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.