Thad Matta's Ohio State Buckeyes found out earlier in the day that they had moved up in both major polls even after a lackluster performance in their previous game against American University. The Buckeyes, now ranked 6th in the Coaches Poll, have had many issues putting the ball in the basket this season and a number of these problems carried over in a 65-50 win against the Wyoming Cowboys, who were predicted to finish seventh in the Mountain West Conference before the season started.
Head coach Thad Matta did a lot of tinkering with the lineup early against the Cowboys as the Buckeyes rotated nine players within the first eight minutes of the ball game. The team came out firing against Wyoming's zone defense designed to slow down penetration from the guards. Ohio State nailed their first three shots from the perimeter with junior guard Shannon Scott coming out aggressive to hit a pair of triples which were followed by a three from guard Lenzelle Smith Jr.
Smith Jr. continued his hot shooting in the first half by draining two of his next three from deep and finishing the half with 12 total points. The Cowboys' zone also opened up offensive rebounding lanes as junior center Amir Williams got some easy tip in buckets to contribute to his 6-point first half effort. Without the hot shooting start, the Buckeyes may have been in some trouble as the defensive ball pressure was non-existent during almost the entire opening half.
Wyoming came into the contest with a solid game plan on offense by attacking the rim and forcing Ohio State to move on defense. Akron, Ohio native Larry Nance Jr. led the Cowboys in the first half with 11 points including a dart to the rim that ended in a right-handed slam and a foul. Junior forward Derek Cooke Jr. added another 6 points in the first half and the 6th ranked Buckeyes only led the Cowboys by a score of 38-34 at halftime.
Ohio State fell back down to earth a little from deep range as the second half began. After missing their first three shots from three-point range, the Cowboys took advantage of a Buckeye team that appeared to be sleep walking. Sophomore guard Josh Adams hung in the air and finished at the rim for a bucket and a foul to give the Cowboys a second half lead of 40-39. After the Buckeyes failed to block out and subsequently allowed a powerful put back dunk from Larry Nance Jr., Thad Matta had enough and called timeout to stop the bleeding.
As you would expect, the Buckeyes came out of the timeout and looked much more energized on defense. Aaron Craft finally got in on the scoring act as he coasted to the rim for easy lay-ups on back to back possessions; the second drive was ignited by a Sam Thompson rejection near the rim. The Buckeyes capped off a 9-2 run with a three from the left corner for Lenzelle Smith Jr. A four-point deficit turned into a 48-45 lead and the Buckeyes never really looked back from there.
Senior guard Aaron Craft continued to be aggressive in the second half and finished with all 10 of his points coming in the second half to go along with 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Amir Williams also added another half dozen in the second half to finish the game with 12 points and 16 rebounds and also record his second double-double of the season.
The most troubling part of the night for the Buckeyes might have been the play of junior forward LaQuinton Ross who finished the game with another stat line to cringe at. Ross finish the game 1-7 from the field including 0-3 from the three-point line for a grand total of 3 points. This cannot have Coach Matta feeling too great about a player who everyone thought would be the leading scorer on this team. Fortunately, Lenzelle Smith Jr. poured in a season-high 20 points on 5/8 from downtown, but the Buckeyes will need Ross in a good place by the time conference play rolls around.
Wyoming forward Larry Nance Jr. finished with 17 points in a losing effort with his father, former Cleveland Cavalier Larry Nance Sr. in attendance.
|NANCE JR,LARRY *||17||2||12||2||2||4||6||17||5||7||4||33||-11|
|COOKE JR,DEREK *||8||3||6||1||2||3||4||5||18||7|
|SMITH JR.,LENZELLE *||20||1||1||8||1||2||6||12||3||4||5||8||37||14|