Ohio State's Jon Diebler, (33) who played at Upper Sandusky High, battles Cleveland State's J'Nathan Bullock for a rebound.
Tony Dejak / AP Enlarge
CLEVELAND - Ohio State's national clout isn't the same. The Buckeyes, though, can still be a bully inside state lines.
Freshman Jon Diebler made five 3-pointers in the second half and David Lighty scored 15 points in his homecoming to power Ohio State to an 80-63 win over Cleveland State last night.
Diebler, the most prolific scorer in Ohio high school history, finished with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting and fellow freshman Kosta Koufos added 16 points and five blocks for the Buckeyes (7-3), whose size and quickness intimidated the Vikings.
Diebler came in shooting just 18 percent (9-of-49) on 3-pointers, so Cleveland State decided to let him fire away.
"What's that kid's name?" Vikings coach Gary Waters said, fumbling for a boxscore. "Diebler? I've got to hand it to him. He hit those shots today."
Lighty, a sophomore forward who attended Cleveland's Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School, and Hunter are two of the few holdovers coach Thad Matta can count on from last season's squad which lost to Florida in the NCAA championship.
While this season in Columbus is devoted to rebuilding, there seems to be a bright future for the Buckeyes with Koufos, Diebler and freshman Evan Turner, who had 11 points, leading the way.
"I have to grab them by the ears, gently, and point them in the right direction because everything is so new to them," Matta said of his class of newcomers. "They're making strides but there's still a long way to go to get them playing well at all times."
Ohio State, which lost Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Daequan Cook to the NBA from last season's team, will host the defending champion Gators on Saturday.
J'Nathan Bullock led Cleveland State (6-4) with 16 points.
Up by 10 points at halftime, the Buckeyes scored on eight of their first nine possessions in the second half to open a 53-31 lead on Lighty's layup with 14:43 remaining.
Ohio State increased its lead to 23 and put it on cruise control a little too early. The Buckeyes got careless on offense and lazy on defense, letting Cleveland State rip off 10 points in a row to cut it to 63-49.
However, Diebler knocked down consecutive 3s - the first with four seconds left on the shot clock - as Ohio State restored its lead to 69-51.
It was the Buckeyes' first visit to Cleveland since 1994, when they lost for the only time in seven meetings against the Horizon League's Vikings.
In his second season, Waters is attempting to rebuild a program which went just 10-21 last season and hasn't posted a winning record since 2000-01.
The matchup was the first annual John McClendon Scholarship Classic, a game honoring former Cleveland State coach John McClendon, who in 1966 became the first black coach at a predominantly white school.