Indiana struggled with LIU-Brooklyn, and escaped with a 73-72 win. Michigan State battled with Columbia and Portland for stretches. Michigan was less than impressive for a while against UMass Lowell. There is precedent for a talented Big Ten team to struggle with an overmatched opponent early in the season.
And now, it was the Buckeye's turn. After a first half that could only be charitably referred to as "ugly", Ohio State eventually was able to build on a 28-23 halftime advantage to pull away from the American Eagles, and eventually win, 63-52.
The Buckeyes were carried by an unexpected offensive force, Amir Williams, who added a team leading 16 points on 6-9 shooting, to go with 7 rebounds and 3 steals. Shannon Scott contributed 13, along with 10 rebounds and 4 steals, as the Buckeyes rode a steady stream of turnovers, transition baskets and free throws to eventually squeeze the life out of American.
The Buckeyes needed an 11-2 run over the last six minutes of the first half to establish any kind of lead at all. The Buckeyes opened the game shooting 1-7, with only a Shannon Scott breakaway layup the only field goal, and then 3 out of their first 17. Aaron Craft shot 2-9 from the floor, LaQuinton Ross 1-7, and Sam Thompson 2-6. The lone bright spots on offense came from the impressive free throw shooting from Marc Loving and a resurgent Amir Williams, who shot a combined 9-10 from the stripe in the first half. Amadeo Del Valle added a three pointer on a breakaway.
The Eagles may have been able to lead at halftime, if not for their inability to hang on to the basketball. The Eagles had 14 turnovers in the first half, and 27 total, thanks to relentless ball-hawking from Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott, and careless passing. When the Eagles were actually able to set themselves up for a shot, they competed as efficiently as could be expected, working the ball around with their Princeton offense to catch the Buckeyes creeping on backdoor cuts, creating easy baskets.
Ohio State opened the second half with a jolt of energy, thanks to a Shannon Scott layup in transition in the first few seconds, and threatened to finally open up the game, leading by as much as 13 midway through the second half (51-38). American refused to roll over though, riding a slew of layups and a cascade of missed Ohio State threes to close the gap to 53-44 with 5:30 left in the game, and 53-44 with only 3:50 left.
Lenzelle Smith hit a three pointer that touched every part of the rim on the way down to push the margin to 56-44, and then forced a contested Darius Gardner jumper at the end of the shot clock. Aaron Craft drained two free throws, and then Sam Thompson gave the crowd what they were really wanting, a GIF worthy jam in transition to push the score to 60-44, and finally put the game out of reach with less than two minutes left. A Jesse Reed triple made it 60-47, but the damage had already been done.
American was paced by a spirited effort from Jesse Reed, who contributed 15 points on 5-9 shooting, including 3-5 from downtown. Big Man Tony Wroblicky may have had the most impressive complete game, with 14 points on 7-10 shooting, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and 4 blocks, as he firmly established himself as an interior defensive threat. Wroblicky did have a team high 9 turnovers, and saw his playing time somewhat limited due to his foul trouble. Wroblicky had fouled out of his previous two games, and had 4 tonight.
Leading scorer Darius Gardner was mostly handcuffed, limited to 10 points on 4-14 shooting, although he did dish out 5 assists, which was more than twice what Ohio State had as a team in the first half (2). The Eagles also acquitted themselves well on the boards, as the bigger Buckeyes had only a 34-33 advantage on the glass.
Ohio State had multiple opportunities to give themselves more distance from the Eagles, but missed several opportunities. One finger could be squarely pointed at their difficulties behind the three point line. Ohio State shot 3-16 from downtown, with only one of those occurring in the second half, and several of them being wide open. The team was not especially careful with the basketball themselves, with 13 turnovers of their own, and with reckless dribbling and some careless passing turning some breakaway transition opportunities back into halfcourt sets, where the team has struggled more.
LaQuinton Ross struggled again, making only a single three pointer from the field to finish with 4 points on a 1-7 box score. Lenzelle Smith Jr also only made a single basket, as did Amadeo, despite having multiple open looks.
On one hand, the Buckeye's absolutely dominant defense forced a ton of turnovers, which provided enough coverage to allow the team to get a win when their offense was struggling. One might also assume that Smith Jr, Craft, Ross and Della Valle all struggling at the same time may be unusual. Concern's about Ohio State's ability to manufacture easier baskets ad gain a consistent offense are legitimate though, and will need to be addressed if the team wants to be successful in league play.
For now though, the Buckeyes are 4-0 in late November. Luckily for them, there isn't a BCS computer in basketball, and they don't have to worry about a hard charging Baylor on the heels, should they fail to win with enough gusto.
|SMITH JR.,LENZELLE *||4||1||1||2||1||4||1||2||1||2||23||10|