Going into the final media time out, Ohio State led the Long Beach State 49ers 81-48. It didn't end much better, with a quartet of Buckeyes reaching double digits in a definitive 89-55 victory. Thad Matta, Jeff Boals, and company will have some tough decisions in their future as both starter Sam Thompson and super sixth man Laquinton Ross had outstanding afternoons. Ross finished with 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists while Thompson added 15 points, 4 rebounds, and his usual emphatic flying slam dunks that earned him the nickname "Flying Sam". He even closed the game late with a remarkable alley oop slam to set a new career high in points.
On the opposing end, James Ennis wasn't quite his usual self for Long Beach State scoring just 12 points. Dan Jennings led the way for the 49ers with 16 points on 6-for-13 shooting. The Buckeyes led from the get go in this one, however, and the end was no exception.
This one began almost how it ended: with an impact play from Sam Thompson. The Buckeyes' sophomore who can flat jump out the gym had an early block and combined with the stout Aaron Craft defensive play we've grown accustomed to, set the tone for what appeared to be somewhat a stalemate during the earliest parts of the game.
Despite neither team getting out to much of an effective shooting start, the Buckeyes brought in some of their deep bench early, with their effective third center Trey McDonald seeing some run only 7-8 minutes into the game. That might say more about the inconsistency of starter Evan Ravenel and principle backup Evan Ravenel than anything.
While the Buckeyes started just 3-for-9 from the field, they proceeded to make their next three (including a 3). Around this juncture, LaQuinton Ross began to emulate the same high level performance he exhibited a week prior against Northern Kentucky. A 9-0 Ohio State run expanded the lead to 25-13 with 7:48 to play. Ross would go on to score four straight and help the Buckeyes keep LBSU on their toes defensively (where The Beach shot just 6-of-19 from the field to that point).
Shannon Scott, who's had flashes of brilliance but overall left much to be desired from some of the preseason hype we heard about him, continued to demonstrate some issues shooting the ball from range. His game is far better as a slashing small scoring guard (when playing off the ball), working to facilitate defensively, or leading the break in the transition game.
While it wasn't a trend in the early parts of the season, Ohio State actually found themselves out rebounding the 49ers, 15-9. LBSU's been out rebounded a number of times on the season (including in their respectable showing against Syracuse). Still, former Minnesota head coach (and Gonzaga architect) Dan Monson's bunch were stymied on the glass repeatedly throughout the afternoon.
Despite three fouls (one incredibly suspect one on what looked like a tie up) and continued early offensive struggles by Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes closed the first half strong and took a comfortable 39-25 lead into the locker room. The Buckeyes were out rebounding The Beach 24-12 and outshooting them 39% to 30% from the field.
When both teams came out for the second half, things escalated quickly. With the Buckeyes on the heels of a 10-0 run, OSU soon found their lead up to 43-25. Evan Ravenel would posterize an onlooking transition defense from the 49ers and things would never feel remotely close again.
Long Beach State had injury added to insult in the second half to boot. Sophomore point guard Mike Caffey, the team's principle offensive rhythm facilitator and really their only pure one guard on the team, went down with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Later they'd briefly lose their leading scorer, Ennis, to a leg injury/cramp of some kind as well.
Shannon Scott would begin to play within himself and find Thomas in transition. The Buckeyes' ball movement was particularly high level for much for the afternoon as with around five minutes to play, the team had had 19 assists directly lead to 27 field goal makes. The four Buckeyes finishing with double digits in points all came as a direct result of the team's selflessness.
While the narrative in the aftermath of the Duke game was "will Ohio State find a second scorer?", with the emergence of Ross and the strong play of Lenzelle Smith Jr (14 points, 9 rebounds), the questions might now shift to whether Ohio State can maintain this sort of ball movement and balance moving forward. If Ohio State has just three double digit scorers for much of conference play, they should be able to run with anyone in arguably college basketball's best conference.
While Aaron Craft didn't exactly shake out of his offensive funk, it's becoming increasingly clear that this team doesn't need for him to. Craft also played a specifically gritty game, going for "a man rebound" (In his own words), and necessitating 10 stitches after the fact. Craft finished with only 3 rebounds on the afternoon, but this sort of willingness to get his ahnds dirty to get the job done falls in line with the kind of effort he's made a career out of. As long as Ohio State keeps getting relentless effort from their star point guard (which is hardly a worry), the Final Four run everyone would love to see still remains very much in the realm of possibilities.
The Buckeyes next play host to Savannah State Wednesday night at Value City Arena at 7 PM EST.
|Long Beach State|
|SMITH JR.,LENZELLE *||14||2||3||9||2||5||7||1||3||3||4||24||27|