COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Urban Meyer and the football seniors got the longest ovation on the eve of “The Game.”
The rest of the night belonged to a No. 3 Ohio State men’s basketball team that was getting prepared for one of its biggest games of the season.
Deshaun Thomas scored 15 of his 21 points as the Buckeyes rolled to a huge first-half lead on the way to a 91-45 victory against overmatched Missouri-Kansas City on Friday night.
The game was the final tuneup for the Buckeyes (4-0) before their ACC/Big Ten Showdown matchup against No. 5 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday night.
“We know they’re a great team,” Thomas said of the Blue Devils. “We need to get better. It’s going to be a great experience — it’s going to be loud and crazy. But we just are going to have to take one thing at a time and stay together down there.”
The Buckeyes know that Duke will be ready for them, particularly since Ohio State laid an 85-63 beating on the Blue Devils a year ago in Value City Arena.
“We know we’re probably circled on their calendar,” said Shannon Scott, who hit career highs with 10 points and 10 assists against UMKC. “We’re just going to be there and be ready for them.”
Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 13 points and LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson had 11 apiece as Ohio State experimented with subs for almost the entire second half.
Thomas, who came in averaging 25 points a game, hit 6 of 8 shots from the field including 2 of 3 3-pointers, plus made all seven free throws. He also had eight rebounds. The Buckeyes shot 61 percent from the field.
The game, the first between the Buckeyes and `Roos, was all but over midway through the opening half.
The Buckeyes scored the first eight points while the `Roos were missing their initial eight shots from the field. After UMKC pulled to 20-8, Ohio State ran off 11 of the next 13 points.
The Buckeyes then closed the half on an 18-2 run to build the lead to 53-18. Eight players scored, led by Thomas’ 15.
“Obviously, they’re a terrific team,” said UMKC coach Matt Brown.
Estan Tyler and Thomas Staton each had seven points to lead the `Roos (2-3).
Ohio State’s Thad Matta said the Buckeyes had worked on putting away teams early instead of easing back and keeping the game close.
“I was excited to see our guys play from start to finish,” Matta said. “We felt like going into the game we didn’t ever want Kansas City to be comfortable on offense. They run their offense very well and we wanted to be as disruptive as we possibly could. Our guys did that.”
The Buckeyes forced 18 turnovers that led to 23 points — most ending with rim-shaking dunks.
Thomas said it was important to keep adding to the lead.
“We know that we have another gear in us,” he said. “We came out with fire. When we were up 20 or 30, we kept our foot on the pedal and we didn’t stop. That’s what we need to do.”
Matta wasn’t so certain if his team was ready this soon to take on Duke before a hostile crowd.
“That’s going to be, obviously, a great road test for this team,” he said. “From the standpoint of going into that type of environment, it will be beneficial in the long run.”
One of the loudest cheers of the first half came when freshman Amedeo Della Valle, a native of Italy who played high school ball in Las Vegas, tipped a ball away on defense and then knocked down a 3 at the other end for his first collegiate points.
But the biggest roar was saved for Meyer and his team. The fourth-ranked Buckeyes (11-0) play archrival and 20th-ranked Michigan (8-3) on Saturday at Ohio Stadium in the 109th edition of what is dubbed “The Game.”
“So far it’s been a heck of a year,” Meyer said after a lengthy standing ovation.
Linebacker Etienne Sabino spoke before giving way to fullback/linebacker Zach Boren.
“We’ve been waiting a year to have a rematch with these guys from the Team Up North,” Boren said, referring to last year’s 40-34 loss to the Wolverines. “We need your help to go out as champions and to go out 12-0. Go Bucks!”