The Buckeyes stayed undefeated on Saturday, downing the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils in convincing fashion, 74-56. No. 5 Ohio State was led by LaQuinton Ross, who scored a career-high 23 points, continuing to grow into the scoring burden left by Deshaun Thomas.
The Buckeyes were hot-to-trot coming out the gate, led by Amir Williams on the offensive and defensive end. Williams held down the paint, scoring easy lay-ups and defending the rim, helping to hold the Blue Devils to just two points in the first four minutes of play. The game started as a blow-out, with the Buckeyes up 14 points early on.
CCSU, who came into the game shooting just 40 percent from the field, cut the lead to eight with nine minutes left behind a series of assists and buckets from Kyle Vinales, the Blue Devils leading scorer (who's come off the bench the last two games). Vinales ended the game with just eight points, despite averaging 19.3 on the season. Central Connecticut State was led by Forward Faronte Drakeford, who in a losing effort had 12 points and five rebounds.
10 of Ohio State's first 13 points came in the paint. Then, the Buckeye offense regressed to jacking up low-percentage shots. You live and die by the three-pointer in college hoops, and Ohio State's offense started to look complacently stagnant shooting threes and struggling to connect.
Ross got into a smooth and comfortable rhythm early in the half, scoring nine of team's 22 points midway through the first half, making five of his eight attempts from the field for nine points. Ross hasn't been forcing shots since the North Florida game, and has become a key to the Ohio State offense the last few games.
The Buckeye offense only shot 48 percent in the first half, but capitalized on Central Connecticut's 12 turnovers by scoring 15 points. The Blue Devils offense was fueled by Vinales coming off the bench, with 10 of their 29 first half points coming from bench players.
Both teams came out scoring in the second half. The Buckeyes were led by Smith Jr., who started second half with a quick three and a layup on back-to-back possessions. Vinales kept on scoring, working his way around reigning B1G Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Craft with ease on multiple occasions.
The human highlight reel Sam Thompson had a few monster blocks and a jaw-dropping inbound alley-oop, but was relatively quiet in the game, leaving the big plays to his teammates. Amadeo Della Valle had a fast-break layup stuffed off the backboard, only to have Smith Jr follow the play and throw down a thunderous dunk off the ricochet. The first half featured a Scott-to-Williams back door alley-oop, which seems to be an every-game occurrence.
The Buckeyes played unselfishly all night, with 10 assisted buckets and eight different scorers. Craft did Craft-y things as per usual, cutting through the lane and quaintly scoring when he needed to. The senior leader finished the contest with (insert numbers here).
A series of Buckeye buckets in the paint gave Ohio State its biggest lead of the game. Thad Matta and the Scarlet and Gray went up 72-52 with under two minutes to play off of sharp ball movement and quick cuts to the hoop. The Buckeyes offensive attack was balanced throughout the entire game and didn't falter towards the final buzzer as it has in previous games.
The only real concern for Matta and Ohio State was the fact that, once again, the Buckeyes were outworked on the boards (29-28). The defense was frequently susceptible to backdoor and off-ball cuts, but it never proved to be an issue. Ohio State moved on to 8-0, and will most likely improve on their third overall national ranking as well.
Next on the schedule for Ohio State are the Bryant Bulldogs, who will travel to the friendly confines of the Value City Arena Wednesday, December 11 for a 7:30 p.m. ET tip-off.