The Buckeyes got their most well-rounded performance of the season today, as they downed the North Florida Ospreys 99-64 to go 6-0 on the year behind career performances from Amir Williams and Amadeo Della Valle.
Williams led the Buckeyes with 18 points and seven rebounds, and Della Valle dropped 17 points on five made threes. Both of those were career highs. LaQuinton Ross had by far his most confident performance of the season, knocking in 17 points on nine shots to go along with eight rebounds. Aaron Craft was also extraordinarily efficiency, going 7-8 from the field en route to 16 points and five assists. It was an excellent all-around performance from the Buckeyes, who shot 69% from the field with 14 made threes and 18 forced turnovers.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. ended up with 10 points, six assists, and six rebounds, to round out the five Buckeyes in double-figures today. It was a welcome performance from the struggling Buckeye offense that was shooting only .418 from the field and .300 from behind the three point line coming into the game.
The Buckeyes started the same five as in their previous five games, with Craft, Shannon Scott, Smith Jr., Ross, and Williams. North Florida started in a 2-3/3-2 zone hybrid that Scott eviscerated with five easy points, an assist, then a pass leading to a shooting foul on Williams before the first TV timeout. Overall, the team started 8-8 from the field en route to an opening 24-6 run.
The Ospreys switched to a man defense and went on a 14-4 run before the 8-minute mark, led by a pair of threes by Beau Beech, while the Ohio State bench was in. Della Valle missed a pair of open threes that could have killed the run, but Ross canned an 18-footer and a three-pointer to end it and extend the Buckeye lead to 13. Ohio State's starters began the game 14-14 from the field before Craft missed a 15 footer to end the streak at the 4:30 mark. Ohio State forced 12 turnovers with six steals in the first half, and the lead probably would have been greater if not for Scott's three turnovers. Marc Loving ended the first half with a huge, transition, exclamation point dunk followed by an unbelievable flip shot and-one by Craft.
The biggest story of the first half for the Buckeyes though was Ross. He started 4-4 from the field for ten points. His fourth jumper was a 17-footer in complete rhythm with a confidence that he hadn't yet shown this season. He looked ready to completely take the game over before being called for a weak second foul at the final TV timeout of the first half. Lenzelle Smith also had a big first half with seven points, six rebounds, and five assists. Overall, the Buckeyes led 48-29 at the end of the first half after shooting 70.4% from the field and draining six threes.
The second half started slowly with sloppy run of play overall, laden with turnovers and fouls. Ross and Williams got on the board with four quick points each as Ohio State forced five turnovers in the first four minutes of play, and stretched the lead to 31 points. The game got so ugly early in the second half that occasional Jim Jackson highlights were more exciting than the actual game itself.
The Buckeyes cleared out the bench by the ten-minute mark, and Della Valle excited the crowd with a barrage of threes and drive to the bucket for -- what is my guess -- the first time in his Ohio State career. Della Valle was probably the only thing that kept me from turning this game off.
Then for some reason the Buckeyes put their starters back in. Why this happened, I'm not entirely sure. Williams got to throw down some monstrous dunks off of little dish passes from Ross and Smith, leading to a career-high 18 points from the big man. The ball movement was comically quick and the threes were falling with reckless abandon. No seriously, Craft made like a 25-foot three. Even Thad Matta laughed when it went in. Della Valle launched a 25 footer that was nothing but net. Listening to Jackson try to pronounce Della Valle's name gave even better entertainment. The quest to get junior walk-on Jake Lorbach on the scoreboard this season was unfortunately unsuccessful again after Lorbach missed two free throws with thirty seconds remaining.
I guess that there was another team on the floor today in North Florida, but in reality they didn't put up much resistance outside of that little run midway through the first half. Freshman point guard Dallas Moore was pretty solid, going 5-10 for 14 points against the defensive buzz saw that is Scott and Craft. Beech also ended up with 14 points.
The Buckeyes next face off against Maryland this coming Wednesday at the Schottenstein Center in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Buckeye fans will get an extra dose of Michigan hate in that game, as junior transfer Evan Smotrycz is averaging 12.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. That game is scheduled to tip off at 7:00 PM EST. Given today's performance, the Buckeyes seem to be headed in the right direction offensively.