COLUMBUS - Sean Connolly, playing his first regular-season game in two years, didn't think he would have to be a savior in his inauguration, but Ohio State's struggles mandated that last night in Value City Arena.
The transfer from Providence College, who sat out last season, quickly shook off the rust and netted 18 points as the Buckeyes polished off Yale 65-45 in the basketball season opener for both teams..
Connolly's reputation as a 3-point shooter became obvious when it had to be with Yale invalidating OSU's Ken Johnson with double teams every time the 6-11 center caught the ball.
Someone had to be open on the perimeter and the 6-5 Connolly responded.
He hit seven of 11 shots, including four of seven 3-pointers. The 6-5 forward/guard scored eight of the Buckeyes' first 17 points of the second half as OSU broke away to a 47-25 advantage.
“The guys got me open along the baseline and I was just hitting my threes,” Connelly said. “I got into the flow in the second half and felt more comfortable shooting the ball. I've got to hit those so Ken and the other big guys inside can get open more.”
Twelve of his points and three of his 3-pointers came in the second half as OSU overcame a lot of obstacles that threaten young teams with no stars in their first outing.
That would apply to Yale even more.
The Bulldogs are picked to finish last in the Ivy League and have 11 underclassmen on the roster. They did nothing to dissuade their predicted destiny, shooting only 36.5 per cent from the field.
“I thought Connolly had a terrific game and he did just what we had been looking for him to do, and that was to make some perimeter shots when we get bogged down a little bit,” Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien said. “It's nice when a guy who ends up coming off the bench becomes your leading scorer.
“His ability to shoot 3's is going to be very important and it played no small part in us going five-for-eight from 3-point range in the second half.”
Connolly connected on 64 3-pointers as a freshman at Providence two years ago. That was the most ever by a freshman in school history. He averaged 11 points per game, making him only the seventh Friar freshman to average 11 or more points.
Johnson, who had unofficial career highs of eight field goals, 13 field goal attempts and 21 points in an exhibition win over Marathon on Monday, was held to seven points, six shots with three turnovers and five blocked shots.
The Buckeyes were never good at any one thing for any great length of time with the exception of overall effort.
They were hot and cold offensively, and hot and luke warm defensively. For the third game in a row, including two exhibition games, they were guilty of more turnovers than assists, this time the count was 19-11.
Point-guard Brent Darby had one assist and four turnovers, hit just one of five shots, and didn't start the second half. He was replaced by Connolly with junior Brian Brown taking over at the point.
That seemed to ignite the Buckeyes offensively. Brown finished with 16 points, including 10 in the second half.
Chris Leanza, a former All-Ohio player from Cleveland, led Yale with 10 points.
“We needed to get somebody who was going to play a little bit better,” O'Brien said. “Brent is our guy, but the way Connolly player early, it made no sense not to get Sean out there right off the bat (in the second half).”
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