With moments like Dallas Lauderdale’s back-to-back dunks and Byron Mullens’ bank-shot three-pointer, the Scarlet & Gray team comprised mostly of Ohio State alumni left the capacity crowd at Capital University with numerous opportunities to reminisce Saturday during the first round of The Basketball Tournament.
The standing ovation that former Ohio State coach Thad Matta received in between the third and fourth quarters was another reminder of how memorable an era it was when the Buckeyes earned an NCAA runner-up finish in 2006-07 and made a Final Four run in 2011-12.
Jared Sullinger, who was a standout on the 2011-12 team, looked comfortable from the start for the top-seeded Scarlet & Gray during its 99-68 victory against the 16th-seeded West Virginia Wildcats.
He scored 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including making three three-pointers, and added six rebounds in just 18 minutes with all 11 of his team’s players logging at least 10 minutes.
“It felt like a home game,” said Sullinger, a Northland graduate who has five years of NBA experience. “I was kind of getting chills being able to play in front of my hometown again. Our fans are crazy and we love it.”
The TBT is a 72-team event in which the winner earns $2 million.
The victory over West Virginia sends the Scarlet & Gray into a second-round game at 2 p.m. Sunday at Capital against the Matadors (Texas Tech).
If the Scarlet & Gray win that contest, it would need two additional Midwest Regional victories to advance to the Final Four of the TBT. A season ago, the Scarlet & Gray lost in the Final Four to Challenge ALS, which then lost in the final as Overseas Elite won its third consecutive TBT title.
In the win against the Wildcats, the Scarlet & Gray scored the first seven points and opened up a 14-2 lead. Sullinger made back-to-back three-pointers early in the second quarter to give his team a 29-16 advantage.
Leon Rodgers, an Eastmoor product who played several years overseas, former Buckeye Jon Diebler and former Penn State guard Talor Battle all made three-pointers in the second quarter as the Scarlet & Gray built a 55-30 halftime lead.
Scoonie Penn, who played for the Buckeyes from 1998 to 2000 and serves as general manager of Scarlet & Gray, sees a team that has room to improve on its opening performance despite the lopsided score.
His team shot 37 of 66 (56.1 percent) from the floor, outrebounded its opponent 42-33 and made 16 of 34 from three-point range.
“It’s about us as a team,” Penn said. “We need to worry about how we’re playing. Once we got the lead, we started getting lazy, and that’s something you can’t do going forward. I didn’t think there was a team that was more talented than us last year, but talent doesn’t win games. We’ve got some high IQ guys.”
The addition of Battle could be big in the long run.
After helping Armored Athlete make it to the West Regional final last summer, he produced 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting and had six rebounds in 20 minutes during his first game for Scarlet & Gray.
Mullens, a Canal Winchester graduate who played for the Buckeyes in 2008-09 and spent five years in the NBA, pointed to his team’s 14 turnovers as an area of critique.
The 7-foot center finished with 14 points on 5 of 7 shooting and grabbed five rebounds in just 10 minutes of action.
“I’m enjoying it,” said Mullens, who was unable to play with the Scarlet & Gray last summer because of a knee injury. “I just think we’ve got so many basketball players and we play well together. We just know what to do.”