COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Sam Thompson showed the way for Ohio State’s promising bunch of newcomers.
Thompson scored 14 points — including seven in a 14-0 first-half run — and No. 20 Ohio State’s rookies had a big game in leading the Buckeyes to a 92-55 victory against overmatched UMass-Lowell on Friday night.
"To be honest, they were better than I expected," said UMass-Lowell coach Pat Duquette. "I thought with graduating some of the guys they lost last year it would take them a little while to bring it together. But this is a good team."
Freshman D’Angelo Russell had 16 points, four rebounds and six assists, Marc Loving scored 14, graduate transfer Anthony Lee had 13 and redshirt freshman Kam Williams 12 for the Buckeyes (1-0), who shot 62 percent from the field. Shannon Scott, often eclipsed by the hoopla around graduated point guard Aaron Craft, had a career-best 11 assists to go with nine points.
"The newcomers did a great job," said Thompson, a senior. "We wanted to play fast, we wanted to have our defense translate into some offense, we wanted to get some easy buckets — and we did a good job of doing that."
Russell is an acclaimed recruit out of Louisville, Kentucky, who led Montverde (Fla.) Academy to a 55-2 record and two national championships the last two seasons. He played well alongside Scott, and then slid over and ran the offense to give Scott a breather.
"We’ve got a good group of guys that can fill it up any night," the 6-foot-5 guard said. "With the newcomers, I don’t think anybody was nervous. We’re past that stage. So it’s just stepping up and getting the job done."
The bigger, stronger, quicker Buckeyes pulled away early. After Kerry Weldon, who had 11 points, dunked to put the River Hawks up 5-4, Thompson hit a 3 from in front of the visiting bench and then made a floater in the lane. Scott then made a 3, Loving a perimeter jumper and, in transition, the Buckeyes got back-to-back baskets on a dunk from Thompson and Russell’s layup to make it 18-5.
The outcome was never in doubt again.
"Sam has been playing very, very well. He’s got a little bit of a different demeanor about him, which I love — very, very businesslike," coach Thad Matta said. "He’s done a nice job of taking care of the younger guys, getting them to understand what their role is and what they need to do. The young guys did a pretty good job tonight."
Jahad Thomas, redshirted as a freshman due to an injury, had 18 points in his debut for the River Hawks (0-1), who are integrating nine newcomers into the lineup.
UMass-Lowell has four starters returning from last year’s 10-18 season, its first under Duquette, in which it went 8-8 in its America East Conference debut.
The Buckeyes return three starters from last year’s team that went 25-10 overall and finished fifth in the Big Ten (10-8), but are missing their top three scorers.
The River Hawks’ top seven players did not include a player taller than 6-5 — the height of Ohio State’s first-string shooting guard.
It didn’t take long. An announced crowd of 13,256 went wild when their favorite dunk artist, Thompson, threw down a one-handed jam off an alley-oop pass from Russell at the 14:58 mark of the first half. Showing a little bit more versatility as a senior, Thompson also hit a variety of mid-range jumpers along with two 3s.
QUOTE OF THE GAME:
"D’Angelo Russell is as good a freshman as I’ve seen," said Duquette, who spent 13 years coaching in the ACC and Big East.
UMass-Lowell plays at Rhode Island on Sunday, part of a five-game road trip to start the season.