COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Despite two impressive wins to start the
season, Ohio State coach Thad Matta doesn't feel the slightest bit
"We're a long way from where we need to be," Matta said. "I'm
never comfortable with the team I'm coaching. I'm always nervous."
Ron Lewis did his part to ease his coach's nerves, scoring the
first seven points of each half for Ohio State and finishing with
27 to lead the Buckeyes (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP) to an 87-75 victory over
Loyola of Chicago on Saturday night in the BCA Classic.
Ohio State (2-0) will face upstate neighbor Kent State (2-0) in
the championship game Sunday night.
"One thing I do like is that we're making winning plays,"
Matta said. "And everybody on the team has stepped up in the two
games at one point and done something we needed."
Lewis topped his previous Ohio State best of 26 points set
against Penn State last season. He scored 34 points in the 2003-04
season opener for Bowling Green.
Lewis also had 11 rebounds and three assists. He was 8-of-14
from the field, including 4-of-6 3-pointers, and also made all but
one of his eight free throws while calling it the best game he has
played in an Ohio State uniform.
"One thing I'm really proud of is I went to the boards," Lewis
said. "That was the one thing I was focusing on today. The scoring
comes, but the one thing we really need on this team is
That's because the Buckeyes are currently without prized
freshman center Greg Oden, sidelined until Jan. 1 after having
surgery on his right wrist.
"I feel like once I get in there I can play hard on every
possession -- just bust my butt and do whatever the coach tells me
to do," Harris said.
"With a team like Ohio State, you can't spot them 15 points,"
Schilb said. "It was hard to get back in the game."
Loyola of Chicago figured to provide a lot of problems for the
young Buckeyes, who start two freshmen and a junior-college
transfer. The Ramblers have all five starters back from a 19-11
season and are favored to win the Horizon League, just like the
Buckeyes were picked to top the Big Ten. That was based mostly on
the presence of Oden, who spent much of the game sitting on the
bench, a towel draped over his head with a scarlet-and-gray brace
on his wrist.
"I could see why they're ranked as high as they are," Loyola
coach Jim Whitesell said. "With Oden coming back, they'll be hard
to match up with. They play kind of a free-and-easy style because
they have so many athletes. They're very impressive."
In Friday's 107-69 opening-round win over VMI, the Buckeyes were
almost forced to keep up with the fullcourt-pressing, fast-breaking
Keydets. Against Loyola, Ohio State's defense set the pace.
The Buckeyes built a lead by harassing the Ramblers' perimeter
players, picking up points in transition and hitting their own open
Cook, who says he never even tried to play defense in high
school, is adapting to Matta's defensive approach.
"For me, it's developing great," Cook said. "Playing defense
sometimes takes away from your offense, but coach tells me I'm
going to get to score, that it's all about defense and who I can
Lewis had 16 points at the half -- including the first seven in a
12-4 burst to start the game -- as Ohio State went up 44-29 at the
He started the same way in the second half -- his fast-break
layup off a blind, backward pass by Mike Conley Jr. putting the
Buckeyes up 51-33.
The lead never fell below 10 points again.
"I'm proud of the way we got out of the gate," Matta said.
"At times we show our youthfulness. ... We're a work in