Players, coaches expect wild OSU-Cleveland State game
Ohio State sophomore guard David Lighty spent part of his day Monday looking for three more tickets for tonight’s game against Cleveland State.
They are in big demand from the Cleveland native’s family and friends. Lighty was able to get 20 tickets for the Buckeyes’ first game at Quicken Loans Arena since 1994. His mother had already secured 200.
“It’s a little wild,” Lighty said.
It should be a little rabid inside The Q for a rare Ohio State road game played in state. There has not been one since the Buckeyes and Vikings met in Cleveland 13 years ago.
Lighty starred at Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School and knows some of Cleveland State’s players. The word he has heard through the grapevine is to not take the Vikings lightly.
“They’ve been talking a little bit of stuff,” Lighty said.
“They’re talking to some of my friends at home and saying, ‘Just be ready. Bring your A game.’ They have a pretty good team. If we don’t come out to play it’s going to be a long night.”
The 6-3 Buckeyes may have more to lose playing an in-state opponent now. Everyone faces challenges on the road, more so with teams as young as Ohio State.
“When we scheduled this game I thought we may have a couple extra guys on our team,” said Head Coach Thad Matta, referring to Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook, who left for the NBA after one season.
Matta still embraces what tonight offers. Ohio State’s large alumni from the Cleveland area and the school’s popularity also means there will be no shortage of Buckeyes fans at The Q.
“I think having the chance to play in the Cavaliers’ arena is a great opportunity for our guys,” Matta said “Last year it was Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. I view this as a postseason play type of atmosphere.”
Coach Gary Waters is trying to help Cleveland State become a Horizon League contender after some lean years. The 7-3 Vikings are just three wins shy of last season’s total.
Cleveland State is led by St. John’s transfer Cedric Jackson and preseason All-Horizon League selection J’Nathan Bullock. Jackson, a 6-foot-3 junior guard, is third in the Horizon in scoring with an average of 17.9 points and leads the league in steals (3.1 per game) and assists (5.4).
“They’re a very good basketball team,” Matta said. “They’ve played some very good teams and have a veteran core. There’s not a lot of freshmen running around out there.
“Gary has obviously proven he can get the job done. They’re playing with great energy.”
Lighty says the Buckeyes can take positives out of tonight as his team continues to build toward the start of Big Ten play.
“They’re a good team in a good league,” Lighty said. “They play different style of basketball. Everybody gets up into you and presses. I think that’s just going to help us further down the line.”
Reach Repository sports writer Mike Popovich at (330) 580-8341 or e-mail email@example.com