So the former Bishop Luers standout scored the first basket in each half, totaled 22 points, two above his Big Ten leading average, as Ohio State (12-3 overall, 2-1 in the Big Ten) cruised over Purdue 74-64 Tuesday night.
A sold-out Mackey Arena, filled with a crowd that booed vigorously at his introduction didn’t phase Thomas. Neither did a Purdue defense that continually gave him open looks.
The junior forward made the Boilers pay, adding seven rebounds.
Purdue’s brothers Johnson (Terone and Ronnie) combined for 29 points,12 rebounds and nine assists, which might have been enough if the Boilers didn’t get beat on the boards (37-32) and stumble on defense (the Buckeyes shot 55.6 percent for the game)
A.J. Hammons added 13 points and eight rebounds for the Boilers (7-8 overall, 1-2 in the Big Ten).
Purdue went 1-2 in a grueling opening Big Ten opening against top-20 teams that started with an upset of Illinois and continued with a loss at Michigan State.
The schedule softens with a home game against Penn State (8-6 and 0-2) and a trip to Nebraska (9-6 and 0-2) before a non-conference home game against West Virginia.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta emphasized a fast start in the wake of last Saturday’s loss at Illinois, when the Buckeyes quickly into a double-digit hole they never recovered from.
Thomas set an instant tone by hitting a jumper seconds into the game. He had 11 points in the first 11 minutes as the Buckeyes surged to a 31-17 lead. They had 10 second-chance points thanks to a 12-4 rebound edge.
By halftime that rebound advantage was 22-11 as Ohio State led 39-29 even with guard Aaron Craft playing just five minutes because of foul trouble.
Thomas opened the second half with a basket, but it became an offensive showcase for Craft. He had 13 second-half points (he finished with 15) to sustain the Buckeye advantage.