If you're going to specifically set aside time to watch a top 10 team take on a sub .300 squad, you're probably hoping for at spectacular blowout, complete with some highlight-worthy plays. The conference season will be full of 57-52 grinders, so you want to enjoy those few firework opportunities when you can.
The first 10 minutes of the Chicago State/Ohio State game were about as explosive as Bazooka Joe bubble gum. The Cougars came out of the gate hitting multiple contested three-pointers, while the Buckeyes opened 1-8 from downtown as they clung to a 16-14 lead at the 12 minute mark. The Buckeyes shook off the cobwebs then and began to exploit their significant size advantage, forcing the Cougars into foul trouble, ripping off a 20-5 run to take a 37-24 halftime lead, en route to a 87-44 final margin.
After a shaky start, the Buckeyes clamped down defensively and ran away from Chicago State, thanks to another strong effort from Deshaun Thomas and Lenzelle Smith Jr.
Deshaun Thomas lead all scorers in the first half with 12 points, repeatedly driving to the basket to get high percentage looks after his three wasn't falling. The strategy worked, as Chicago State's leading scorer, Jermey Robinson, picked up 2 quick fouls and missed most of the first half. Thomas also showed off his improved passing, leading the team with 3 assists (including a ridiculous bounce pass leading to an easy Evan Ravenel bucket). Lenzelle Smith added 11.
Hoping to extinguish whatever faint hopes of a Chicago State rally early, the Buckeyes opened the second half with their foot firmly placed upon the gas pedal. Ripping a 10-2 run right out of the gate (aided by a 3rd foul on Robinson) pushed the margin to 47-26, allowing Matta to begin to emptying his bench and working on teaching. Every Buckeye scored, including an impressive 11 points fom freshman Amadeo Della Valle, and 14 from Laquinton Ross. Evan Ravenel added 10 boards and Aaron Craft had a complete game with 10 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds. Thomas finished with a game high 17.
Quinton Pippen, the nephew of Chicago's more famous Pippen lead the Cougars with 12. Pippen hit a trio of highly contested three-pointers, and also forced 3 steals. The Cougars shot a paltry 26% from the floor, as they had no answer for the size and athleticism of the Buckeyes, while doing themselves no favors by missing several easy shots. No other Cougar reached double figures in scoring. Nate Duhon was second on the team with 9 points, but made only one field goal. Perhaps the most impressive statistical feet was center Quincey Ukaigwe managing to foul out with over 12 minutes left in the game.
Ohio State certainly wasn't perfect though. The Buckeyes shot a measly 13-27 from the free throw line, opening themselves up to sarcastic cheers from the Buckeye faithful after successful attempts. Leaving 14 points on the table in Big Ten play is likely going to lead to multiple losses. While the Buckeyes finished with a more than respectable 47% shooting from three, they struggled mightily in the first half, settling for jump shots and letting the Cougars hang around for a little longer than they should have, talent wise.
Amir Williams earned his first ever college start, and turned in 4 points, 4 boards and a block in 15 minutes of play. His defensive potential is still higher than just about anybody on the team, but the "homeless man's Ben Wallace" comparisons are starting to look apt, as his post presence and offensive skill set are lacking, and haven't developed much over the past month. Williams himself has admitted to focus issues during blowouts of lesser opponents, a revelation that made not bode well for conference play.
It is difficult to draw many more conclusions from a game that shouldn't have many similarities with conference play. With the exception of Nebraska, Ohio State will be unlikely to dominate another team so thoroughly, or play such a deep bench for so long. We know that we'll get at least one FLYIN' SAM THOMPSON DOT GIF a game (Thompson was mostly quiet today, but still delivered an impressive slam with about 3 minutes to play) , and we know that for better or for worse, Lenzelle Smith appears to be carrying the mantle of the illusive second Buckeye scoring option. We know that Amir Williams can block and redirect shots, that Evan Ravenel can rebound very well, and that Aaron Craft can deal and defend, but that none of the above are great shooters. Even against wildly inferior opposition, the Buckeyes still experienced scoring droughts. This is probably something that is going to happen against Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
For now though, Ohio State can take comfort in their 10-2 record and another dominating defensive display. If you're holding teams to under 30% shooting from the field, you have a chance against anybody, even if Deshaun Thomas has to take every shot.
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