COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After Friday's Carrier Classic was canceled due to condensation problems on the court, the No. 4 Ohio State men's basketball team was forced to wait another day and a half to officially start its season. So the 15 minutes it took the Buckeyes to play the basketball that they expect to this season seemed like nothing.
After a sluggish start that saw Ohio State trailing with fewer than five minutes remaining in the first half, the Buckeyes used a 17-2 run to close the half to propel them to an 82-60 win over Albany on Sunday, and thus a 1-0 start to the season.
Reminiscent of the way that they stumbled out of the gates in their exhibition win over Walsh two weeks ago, the Buckeyes looked like a team still finding itself in the first 15 minutes of the game, falling behind 23-22 to the Great Danes after Albany forward Sam Rowley converted an uncontested layup with 4:46 remaining in the first half. That play forced an angry Thad Matta to call a timeout, where the OSU coach replaced starting center Evan Ravenel with sophomore big man Amir Williams.
"I saw Thad jump off the bench, it looked like he had a 40-inch vertical," Albany coach Will Brown said. "Coming out of that timeout, obviously, I think that lit a fire under them."
The timeout not only paid dividends for the Buckeyes on the defensive end of the floor, but it also ignited preseason All-American Deshaun Thomas, who rattled off 13 points in the final five minutes before intermission. Despite a 1-for-7 start to Sunday shooting the ball, the junior forward finished the OSU opener with 19 points.
"I give Deshaun a lot of credit, because in the past, I don't know if he could of played through that," Matta said. "I thought he stayed pretty effective. It was huge for him down that stretch. Huge for us."
The Buckeyes were able to afford Thomas' slow start thanks to an offensive outpour from his classmate, junior guard Aaron Craft who scored a game-high and career-high 20 points and dished out seven assists on Sunday, while connecting on five 3-pointers.
"Like I said to our staff coming into the came, if Craft hits five or six threes, then it wasn't meant to be," Brown said. "And sure enough, he hit five threes."
With both Thomas and Craft clicking in the second half, the Buckeyes maintained their momentum, leading the Great Danes by as many as 27 points, while never allowing them to get any closer than 15 points after intermission.
OSU guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 18 points and five rebounds for the Buckeyes on Sunday, while Albany guard Mike Black led his team with 20 points.
The Buckeyes won't take the court again until Saturday, where they will face Rhode Island in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off in Uncasville, Conn.