COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—The waiting was the hardest part for No. 6 Ohio State.
Seven days after getting thumped 86-60 by defending national champion Florida, the Buckeyes shoved that ugly memory a little farther away with a 91-54 victory over Coppin State on Saturday night.
“There’s a lot of relief,” said freshman Daequan Cook, who led the Buckeyes with a career-best 23 points. “We’ve been waiting since the Florida game to come out and prove that we got knocked down but we can get back up and fight again.”
Ohio State coach Thad Matta felt his team answered a nagging question.
“I was just so excited when the ball was tossed up tonight,” he said. “It’s been a long seven days of ‘How are we going to come back?’ I challenged these guys.”
Another freshman, Greg Oden, had his best collegiate game with 18 points and 16 rebounds. He was 7-of-8 from the field—most of his baskets came on dunks— and was just 4-of-10 on free throws. Still recovering from surgery in June to repair ligament damage in his right (shooting) wrist, he shot all but one of his free throws with his left hand.
Oden said he’s gained a lot in his six games back after missing the Buckeyes’ first seven games.
“It’s just being out there with my teammates, getting all of us used to playing with each other,” he said. “It’s also getting into the flow because that’s going to help us in the Big Ten season.”
The Buckeyes (11-2) open conference play on Tuesday against Indiana.
The 18 points matched Oden’s best in his five previous games, while he easily exceeded the 11 rebounds he had against Cincinnati.
“He’s very intimidating, very athletic,” Coppin State coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell said of Oden. “There’s no question he’s going to be a great player. If he’s injured now, then I’d hate to see him when everything is OK.”
Othello Hunter added 16 points for the Buckeyes, while Jamar Butler broke out of a shooting slump with 15, matching his career high with five 3-pointers before fouling out for the first time in his career. David Lighty had 10 points.
Tywain McKee scored 21 points for the Eagles (2-11), who were playing their third ranked opponent this week. The Eagles lost to No. 10 Alabama 99-49 last Saturday and to No. 12 Connecticut 84-41 on Wednesday.
Coppin State fell to 1-35 against ranked opponents—the only win against South Carolina in the first round of the 1997 NCAA tournament. The Eagles have played their last nine games and 12 of their 13 on the road.
“Man, I’m glad I’m going home,” Mitchell said with a laugh.
The opening tip was delayed several minutes because of problems with the shot clock. Two of the bigger scoreboards went down early in the second half.
Also, a Columbus television station showed excerpts from the memorial service for former President Gerald R. Ford rather than the first few minutes of the game. The station received dozens of angry calls from Buckeyes fans before it switched to the game.
After the Eagles scored the first points on a 3-pointer by Antwan Harrison, the Buckeyes ran off 12 straight points—half of them on 3s by Butler.
Ahead 21-10 midway through the first half, Ohio State went on a 9-0 run, with Cook hitting two shots behind the arc to key that surge.
Cook, the Buckeyes’ leading scorer with a 15.3-point average despite never starting a game, eclipsed the 22 points he had against Eastern Kentucky.
The Buckeyes led 46-30 at halftime, with Cook leading the way with 13 points. Butler scored 12 points—more than he had scored in each of his last nine games.
The 7-foot Oden was called for goaltending on a 3-point attempt late in the half. He had as many rebounds as the entire Coppin State team (11) midway through the second half.
Ohio State’s lead never fell below 18 points in the second half and it led by as many as 40.
Butler thought the young Buckeyes—featuring the “Thad Five” recruiting class of Oden, Cook and junior-college transfer Hunter along with Mike Conley Jr. and Lighty—are in good shape for conference play.
“It’s physical—very physical. It’s a tough conference to play in, but a fun conference,” Butler said. “I think they’ll do fine.”
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