Deshaun Thomas started out Sunday's contest 7-7 and finished 12-21 from the field as the Buckeyes kept the Huskies at bay for most of the game. After 20 minutes of play, the Buckeyes lead the Huskies 41-31 and had the lead up to 17 with 2:46 left in the game before finishing with the 11 point victory. Thomas hit for 56 points in 2 games at the Mohegan Sun Arena as the Buckeyes won the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament.
Aaron Craft and Evan Ravenel were the only other Buckeyes in double figures scoring, with 18 points and 12 points, respectively. Craft also added 8 assists to help the Buckeyes clinch the Hall of Fame Tip Off tournament on Sunday. Craft picked up his 4th foul with 5:21 left and was forced to the bench but had to return to action as Shannon Scott took a hard foul. Scott was down on the court for a few minutes but walked off the court on his own.
One of three starting guards for the Huskies, C.J. Wilcox, led the way for Washington with 18 points (including four three pointers). Washington senior point guard Abdul Gaddy wasn't far behind with 15 points on 4-for-6 shooting from the field (3-for-4 from 3) and added 2 rebounds and 3 assists. Center Aziz N'Diaye profiled a much improved offensive repetoire in putting up 9 points to go along with his usual work on the glass (11 rebounds).
Though the score was tight for much of the first 10 minutes, Ohio State didn't seem to start with the same passiveness they exhibited in their previous two games against Albany and Rhode Island. Washington marked an increased level of difficulty relative to these past opponents and it showed as Wilcox, Scott Suggs, and company were matching the Buckeyes' early offensive strides. Thomas, as mentioned, dominated the flow of the game in the early going and, until a missing a pair of shots, was 9-of-10 from the field with 21 points.
Ohio State also found themselves in unfamiliar territory as they were winning the rebounding battle, especially noteworthy given the defensive glass presence of N'Diaye. The Buckeyes were out rebounded by Albany and though they finished with more rebounds against Rhode Island, were behind at various points throughout that contest.
Washington had lost their previous six games in a row to nonconference opposition on the road and though they led 18-17 at one point in the first half, never really felt like they were a threat to Ohio State from about the under 8 time out on. The closest Washington would ever get again would come with 17:34 to play in the second when an Abdul Gaddy three pointer from the perimeter would make it a 5 point game. Deshaun Thomas immediately responded with a momentum killing and one opportunity and the Buckeyes would never look back again.
A point of pride Thad Matta and his staff should draw from this one should come in the form of how their interior bigs responded after a lackluster showing Saturday night against Rhode Island and an equally paltry performance against Albany. Senior center Evan Ravenel played with a fire not previously exhibited during Ohio State's admittedly young season and though his free throw shooting echoed Ohio State's struggles at the line from a year prior, sophomore Amir Williams also seemed far more focused than he'd appeared in the Buckeyes' first two (though he did have a few moments where he could've padded his rebounding stats if he'd gotten to a few more balls). If the Bucks can consistently get engaged performances from these two, it should open things up on both sides of the ball for the remainder of the team.
As noted in the GameThread, this is the very same tournament that a young Kentucky Wildcats teams won before going on a run that would culminate with a national championship in New Orleans. While this Buckeye team is far more senior in terms of college game experience, they aren't quite as talented as that Wildcats team either. Still, if Ohio State gets the kind of production they got out of Thomas and Craft for the remainder of the season, there could very well wind up with a real shot in Atlanta come late March/early April.
Ohio State welcomes Missouri-Kansas City to Columbus for a 6:00 PM EST tip on Friday. That game will be able to be seen on Big Ten Network.
Luke Zimmermann contributed to this report.
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