COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Due to fall quarter graduation at its home
arena, No. 2 Ohio State was forced to return to the program's roots
and play Western Carolina at aging St. John Arena on Sunday.
That was fine by the Buckeyes, who rolled to an 85-60 victory.
But it wasn't so good for coach Thad Matta.
"It's funny, coming in here in the blizzard, they made me park
over by Tommy's Pizza," Matta cracked, referring to a landmark
pizzeria a half-mile or so from St. John.
Just about everything else went according to plan.
Freshman Jared Sullinger scored 17 points and the Buckeyes came
out of the blocks fast to beat the turnover-prone Catamounts.
Dallas Lauderdale, William Buford and Deshaun Thomas each added 13
points and Jon Diebler 10 for the Buckeyes (8-0).
Sullinger was coming off a record-setting 40-point outing in
Thursday night's 75-64 win over IUPUI. He set an Ohio State mark
for points by a freshman, in addition to records for free throws
attempted (23) and made (16). It was the most points scored by a
Buckeye since Dennis Hopson had 41 in 1986.
In Sunday's game, he was just happy to play in an historic venue
where Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, Jim Cleamons, Bill Hosket, Hopson
and Jim Jackson starred.
"I love it. It's loud," Sullinger said while sniffling because
of a bad cold. "It's way smaller than (home court Value City
Arena), but St. John has a lot of history here. I was just happy to
be a part of it."
Ohio State broke free from an early tie with an 11-0 run and
were never headed. They led by as many as 35 points before
Western Carolina coach Larry Hunter, the former coach at Ohio
University, came away impressed with the Buckeyes.
"What I saw on videotape and watching several games was
verified in person," he said. "I really like Thad's team. They're
a very good passing team, got a very good inside presence, you
can't help away from perimeter people too far because they shoot it
so doggone well and they find the open man. They play with a lot of
Mike Williams led the Catamounts (4-8) with 22 points, while
Trey Sumler had 12 and Brandon Boggs 11.
They had 14 turnovers - matching what they average for a game -
at halftime. They calmed down to finish with 20 but still remained
winless all-time against ranked teams (0-36).
The biggest cheer of the game came late in the half when Ohio
State rapidly whipped five passes around and through Western's man-to-man defense before Lauderdale jammed off a feed
Matta said that was a template for how he wanted his team to
"We have a call for that - it's called unselfishness," Matta
joked. "That to me is what I hope is a blueprint, anytime we can
get the ball moving and share it like that. As I told them at
halftime, I think each guy touched it twice in that possession and
we get a wide-open dunk. With who we have on the floor at times,
that's a great way for us to play."
Matta was an assistant at Western Carolina when the 16th-seeded
Catamounts stretched top-seeded Purdue to the limit before bowing
out of the NCAA tournament with a 73-71 loss. It remains one of the
closest calls ever for a No. 1 seed, which has never lost a
first-round game in the tournament.
Hunter said, other than the outcome, he enjoyed the visit to the
"Someone told me tonight that they were thinking about maybe
tearing it down," he said. "There's so much tradition and
history, so much of Ohio State's in here. It's a special