Ohio State somewhat regressed to their slow starts of the early portion of the season, but shook off the cobwebs en route to a definitive 85-45 victory. Buckeyes star forward Deshaun Thomas exploded for 21 first half points (outscoring Savannah State in the half) but didn't see as much time in the second half, adding but a free throw to that total. LaQuinton Ross was a relative non-factor in the first half but continued his emergence as Ohio State's second most natural scorer en route to 13 points and 9 rebounds. Whenever Ross or Thomas were on the court, the Buckeyes were essentially a lock to make something happen offensively.
On the flip side, Arnold Louis led the way with 14 points and 4 rebounds for Savannah State. Tigers star Rashad Hassan struggled with efficiency shooting only 4-for-12 from the field and finishing with only 9 points.
In terms of the less than positives for the Bucks, Aaron Craft still struggled mightily with his stroke (though was often able to continue finding other ways to contribute on the court). Shannon Scott picked up some of the slack on the offensive end of things for the Buckeyes adding 12 points. He also looked impressive defensively, contributing 4 steals and surely prompting the prone to embrace lazy narrative types calling sports talk radio shows or posting in comment sections across these very interwebs to opine whether Scott might actually be the better point guard than Craft at this point.
Thad Matta didn't seem to find any fault with the point guard's overall game afterwards. In his post game press conference, Matta said he didn't have any concerns about Craft being out there and still had full faith in his ability to lead the offense (as he arguably should given Craft's track record and experience). For all Shannon Scott's positive attributes, that which he flashed with and without the ball in his hand on offense tonight and the continued impressive pedigree he's demonstrating on defense, it's almost impossible to find a floor general with defensive clout of Craft's caliber. The Buckeyes would surely love to have both at the top of their games, maybe even on the court at the same time, but it's far from a necessity for them to get where they want to go come March.
This game kicked off, as mentioned, unfortunately on the slower side of things. The Buckeyes weren't making shots, though neither was Savannah State. The Tigers had held all their previous opponents (including the four that had defeated them) to just 38% shooting from the field, and it didn't appear that Wednesday night would be any exception.
As the Buckeyes continued to push through some early sloppiness, to the surprise of those in attendance (and probably even the coaching staff to an extent), the Bucks put together one of the least aesthetically pleasing 9-0 runs arguably in the history of college basketball. After expanding things up to 14-4, Ohio State was able to build the foundation for what would become their 40 point victory at night's end.
Lenzelle Smith had probably his best offensive stretch of the year outside of the Duke game, including hitting multiple 3's as the lead all the sudden was 17-7. And for all their offensive struggles, the Buckeyes not only continued to observe Savannah State doing even worse, they multiplied them exponentially. Ohio State's heralded as one of the best coached defensive sides in the country, and this game proved par for the course.
Deshaun Thomas struck fire and as the Buckeyes went into the half, Deshaun Thomas had outpaced and outclassed principally the entire Tigers basketball team. Shannon Scott showed the kind of flashes prone to cause message board fervor and idle speculation (with respect to his minutes against Craft's or whatever other jump-to-conclusion laden lines of thinking they'd want to grab hold of) by popping a three, intercepting the ensuing inbound pass, and almost hitting an off balance second three in a row as the game went to the half. The OSU lead said it all, 42-18 at half.
The Buckeyes' second half would be scored by what has become one of the ongoing trends of the season: Sam Thompson's emphatic displays of athleticism. Four minutes into the second half, with the game well in hand, Thompson took a Craft outlet pass and slammed it home authoritatively. Just out of the under eight timeout, Thompson was on the receiving end of a Craft inbound pass and added to his season long highlight reel. Thompson also continued to play effective defense and help continue to give the Buckeyes really no wrong option between he and LaQuinton Ross, who as mentioned continued his strong play throughout the game.
Ohio State finished the game with a 55.9 eFG% and 47.5% traditional field goal percentage. Savannah State hadn't allowed 58 points to any of their 9 previous opponents and yet the Buckeyes exploded for 85, purportedly on a challenge from Matta leading up to the game. The Buckeyes took the edict and ran with it and can now continue to build towards their pre-Christmas showdown with Kansas which could go a long way towards determining how conference ready the Buckeyes find themselves
We'll see if Craft can finally get off the schneid, and if the rest of the team keeps up their hot shooting ways Saturday afternoon when the Buckeyes play host to UNC-Asheville.
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