COLUMBUS (AP) — Deshaun Thomas always tells his teammates that he’s going to come out shooting.
In his college debut, that’s precisely what he did.
Thomas stole the spotlight by coming off the bench to score 24 points to lead No. 4 Ohio State to a 102-61 victory over North Carolina A&T on Friday night in the Global Sports Invitational.
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Within seconds after entering the lineup, the Indiana prep scoring champ swished a 3-pointer from the right corner.
“Once I made that, the lights were on,” he said with a broad smile.
The Buckeyes have four starters back from last season’s 29-8 Big Ten regular-season and tournament champion that made it to the NCAA round of 16. But the missing starter is Evan Turner, the consensus national player of the year now with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Ohio State’s most acclaimed recruit, Jared Sullinger, had 19 points and 14 rebounds, while fellow freshman Aaron Craft added eight points and nine assists.
Sullinger termed it a successful night.
“We won,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do right now, winning games and getting better toward March.”
Marc Hill and Nic Simpson each had 14 points for the Aggies, who were outrebounded by a remarkable 60-22 margin.
“It’s really, really fortunate we didn’t get beat by 100,” A&T coach Jerry Eaves said. “You get outrebounded 60-22, it could have been really ugly.”
The Buckeyes didn’t appear to miss Turner all that much, but a lot of that might have been the shortcomings of an Aggies team that was just 11-22 last season and was missing its top big man. Thomas Coleman is out with a hamstring injury.
Among the Ohio State veterans, Dallas Lauderdale had 12 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocked shots, William Buford had 11 points and David Lighty 10.
The 6-foot-8, 255-pound Lauderdale shed some weight and shaved his head in the offseason. He said he felt quicker, “like a gazelle.” The senior had the first double-double of his career.
He said the game, and Ohio State’s grueling practices, will serve as preparation for a bigger test ahead — a showdown at No. 9 Florida on Tuesday.
“Our intensity in practice prepares us for all of the big games,” he said. “The way we practice makes all of the games easier.”
Ahead 52-25 at halftime, the Buckeyes ran off the first 12 points of the second half while holding the Aggies scoreless for more than 4 minutes.
Thomas, a smooth 6-6 lefty with a deft touch from the perimeter, is a part of a six-player freshman class considered by many to be among the best in the country.
“My role is to come out and play hard, keep the team hyped up and motivated,” he said. “That’s my role, plus staying humble and learning.”
With Thomas hitting 6 of 9 shots from the field, including his only 3-pointer and both free throws, the Buckeyes pulled away from an up-and-down start to take the big halftime lead.
Ohio State led 15-2 at the outset only to watch the Aggies draw as close as 29-17 on Jeremy Underwood’s hanger in the lane.
But Craft banked in a left-handed scoop while falling down before Jon Diebler banged in a 3-pointer. Thomas closed the half by scoring the Buckeyes’ final nine points.
Coach Thad Matta was less than thrilled with the Buckeyes’ shooting and defensive pressure.
He said he came in concerned that the freshmen might be a little nervous.
“But all of these guys have a pretty good sense of the crowd and the environment,” said Matta, 157-54 starting his seventh season in Columbus. “Looking out there tonight, I thought their demeanor was very good.”
Ohio State hit 11 of its last 15 shots from the field in the first half and finished 37 of 76 (49 percent) for the game.
Eaves, a member of Louisville’s national championship team in 1980, came away impressed with the depth and skill of the Buckeyes, both the youngsters and the veterans.
“They’ve got all the pieces they need to go a long way,” he said.