Unlike a year ago when the Division 2 (then transitionally) Walsh Cavaliers shot from long range well enough to keep themselves in an exhibition game against Ohio State, the Buckeyes were in control early and often. After 40 minutes of exhibition basketball, OSU had a 93-63 win to show for their troubles against the Cavs.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. got the Buckeyes on the board first and led the way the majority of the afternoon. Smith Jr. looked every bit like what you'd expect out of a senior leader (15 points, 8 rebounds) and was a force on both ends of the court. Ohio State coach Thad Matta used the exhibition as an excuse to tinker with his lineups, starting Shannon Scott over Sam Thompson and then ultimately subbing the artist sometimes colloquially referred to as 'Slam' about 3-4 minutes into the game for Aaron Craft.
Right out of the gates, junior forward Amir Williams looked more assertive than he'd been in the past, finishing with 8 points and 10 boards. An early block set the tone for the Buckeyes and Williams would keep up the act for much of the afternoon. Williams' principle backup Trey McDonald got into the action earlier than he did in just about all but a dozen games last year, but was relatively quiet on the afternoon.
A summer after leading his native Italy to a world basketball championship, Amedeo Della Valle came in and quickly asserted himself with several made three's (much to the delight of the crowd). We'd speculated that this game might represent the best opportunity to get inbound freshman, former 4-star, two-time AP player of the year in the state of Ohio, Marc Loving some early playing time. Loving finished the half with 4 points and 5 boards, often looking more assertive than you'd expect from a raw player who still has plenty of bulk to add to his frame.
A 16-6 run for the Buckeyes set the tone and helped Ohio State to pull away midway through the first half. With seven different Buckeyes getting into the scoring act early, the Buckeyes demonstrated they may be a team that's tough to prepare for as any number of guys could pick up the scoring load on any given day.
LaQuinton Ross started off slowly, but an and one situation with 5:45 remaining in the first half seemed to bring his game to life. By the under four timeout, the Buckeyes led 43-20 and we got our first Shannon Scott-to-Sam Thompson alley-oop of the young season.
The Buckeyes defense seemed unaffected by the new rules overall (though there were a few suspect top of the key type calls, and Aaron Craft did finish the game with four fouls). OSU forced 17 turnovers in the first half alone.
With the same unit starting the second half that started the game, the Buckeyes quickly got back to work, hitting Amir Williams for a dunk off of a pick-and-roll. Q. Ross was back in a hurry too, as he pump faked, leaned in, drew contact, and connected to setup yet another and one situation.
Aaron Craft wasn't mind-blowing on the offensive end, but as per usual, seemed to do just enough. Just under the 15-minute mark, Craft looked particularly, well, crafty, as he dribble drove past his defender and made a layup in the paint.
Though some Ohio State fans were curious as to why Shannon Scott started over Sam Thompson, Scott was ferocious on both ends of the court all afternoon. At one point, a little before midway through the second half, Scott did a nice behind the back pass to setup a bucket for a streaking teammate.
Sam Thompson turned things into his own personal rock 'n jock in the second half at times, converting a variety of dunk opportunities and prompting color commentator (and former Buckeye) George Reese to christen him "Instagram Sam".
Marc Loving got into the Amir Williams act, recording his first career blocked shot and Amir himself continued to look like a new man in 2013. In one particular sequence of note, Williams blocked three shots in three consecutive trips up the court for Walsh.
Perhaps the best testament to Ohio State's team defense was the way they shut down Walsh's arguably best player, Jeff Copeland. After Copeland went off for 16 points a year prior, the Buckeyes held Copeland to just 2 points before he fouled out rather early in frustration.
The Buckeyes broke the 'free fries' mark (e.g. 70 points) pretty early in this one, and the final 5 minutes of action mostly allowed for Thad Matta to experiment with small ball type lineups.
Though the team free throws is something Thad Matta will need to work on in the week ahead before the season opener against Morgan State, both offensively and defensively over all, Ohio State looked pretty sharp.
The Buckeyes open the season in earnest next Saturday against Morgan State. With the football Buckeyes on a bye week, you can take in the game Saturday at noon at Value City Arena. Like the Walsh exhibition, the game will air on the Big Ten Digital Network, which is a $15/mo premium service on BTN.com.
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