Ohio State's 2013-14 opener began about as you would expect, with the Buckeyes starting off hot right out of the gate. Shannon Scott scored 9 of the first 13 Ohio State points, all on 3-pointers. Scott started over Sam Thompson, as seems to be the norm these days for Thad Matta's squad. Joining Scott was Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr., LaQuinton Ross and Amir Williams.
Thad Matta was 9-0 in home opener's going into Saturday's contest. The Buckeyes played extremely well early on, setting the stage to move that streak to double digits. Scott scored a career-high 16 points, followed by Ross, who earned his first career double-double with 14 points 11 rebounds.
Value City Arena erupted in applause when fan-favorite Amedeo Della Valle checked in, immediately taking a 3 on his first touch. Buckeye fans have to love the attack the young player shows, driving the lane and playing a key role in shutting down the Morgan State backcourt. Della Valle and the rest of the Buckeye guards kept MSU star Justin Black in check, holding the senior guard to just 13 points on 6-of-19 shooting.
The Buckeyes were up 22-12 with 10:17 left in the first half thanks to a lot of open looks, particularly from behind the arc in part due to great penetration by Craft. Morgan State had 8 team fouls with 9 minutes to play, putting Ohio State in the bonus and giving the Buckeyes easy points from the charity stripe thanks to the whistle-happy officials.
The Bears traded buckets with the Buckeyes for a few minutes of game play, and then Smith Jr. got it on the action. The senior guard hit back-to-back 3's, putting the Buckeyes up 34-19 with 5:30 left to play in the half.
Buckeye Nation has to be happy with the performance by freshman Marc Loving, who showed a lot of hustle fighting for rebounds and banging down low in the post in the first half. Loving finished the game with 10 points and five rebounds, four on the offensive end. Ohio State's front court's been fairly strong through two, meaning Loving likely needs to have more hustle games like today in order to get additional playing time and earn the trust of the Buckeye coaches.
College basketball's biggest #SWOON, Aaron Craft, finally scored with just 24.3 left in the first half, making two free throws while in the double bonus. The story of Craft's first half featured a lot of Aaron Craft-y things: weaving through the defense, setting up great scoring opportunities for teammates, ugly form looking shots and a lot of passing up on open shots inside the arc. The Big Ten has five teams in the Top 25, and if Ohio State is going to compete and move up the ranks nationally, Craft's going to have to continue being a leader while becoming more active on the scoring end when needed.
The Buckeyes led 49-23 at the half with a lot of shared and spread out scoring. The Buckeyes had 9 assists on 15 field goals led by Smith (13 points) and Scott (11 points). Ross pulled in 9 rebounds at the half, 3 on the offensive end. Ohio State was shooting 40 percent from the field, making Morgan State's dismal 29 percent look even worse.
Morgan State's 7-foot-2 Ian Chiles was held to just 4 points in the first half thanks to Amir Williams' ferocious defense in the paint. Williams stood his ground and went move for move with Chiles, keeping the big man off the boards and out of the score book. The Buckeyes led 49-23 at the break, and there was no looking back from there.
The box score of the second half will tell a tale of turnovers, fouls, and playing down to an opponent, but those who were able to watch the game saw an Ohio State team that didn't give in. It was unfortunate to see Williams foul out relatively early in the second half, but Ohio State fans have to love the defense Williams played all day.
Shannon Scott began the second half like he did the first, hitting a jumper off the dribble, looking as smooth as ever. Scott finished the game with 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting (4-7 from 3), adding four rebounds and a surprising seven assists.
The rest of the half was what you would expect from a 20+ point blowout. The teams traded baskets on and off, and Coach Matta took advantage of the game, giving players like Della Valle, Loving and Trey McDonald valuable teaching minutes.
The second half was highlighted by multiple dunks and alley-oops that kept the fans at Value City Arena more than entertained. Ross threw down a dunk in transition and really got the juices flowing for the rest of the high-flying Buckeyes. It was 68-40 with 11 minutes left when Sam Thompson climbed the ladder and floated through the air, eventually hammering in a one-handed alley-oop. Slam Thompson would get another monster dunk, flying through the rafters a few possessions later, which was immediately followed up by a Della Valle-to-Smith alley as well. At that point, the game was all but out of reach, the fat lady began to sing, and the outcome functionally decided.
The program improved to 93-18 in home openers and 89-22 in reagular season debuts. Next up for the Scarlet and Gray is in-state rival Ohio University. The game will tip-off at 8:00 p.m. ET Tuesday night in the friendly confines of Value City Arena.
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