Though the margins didn't differ a ton from previous years, for whatever reason, the 2014-15 edition of the Ohio State Buckeyes' exhibition against their counterparts from tiny Walsh College felt extra like a scrimmage on Sunday afternoon. In an contest which never saw the Buckeyes remotely threatened, Ohio State cruised to a decisive, lopsided 77-37 victory over the Cavaliers.
The biggest revelation in the 40 minute final tune up for Friday night's regular season opener was D'Angelo Russell. Russell looked one-and-done good through the first half, and though he cooled considerably in the second half from a scoring output standpoint, he looked every bit as good as his five-star composite ranking advertised him being with everything he brought to the table.
The Buckeyes' perimeter defense was more than effective operating out of the 2-3 zone, keeping Walsh 0-for-their-first-19 three point shots and through 39 minutes having no double digit scorers. There were certainly some weak spots (early game interior rebounding notably, though that happens when operating primarily out of the zone) as well, but the talent differential was beyond apparent from opening tip through the final buzzer.
3 things we learned
1. D'Angelo Russell is a potential instant difference maker. Sure, the more optimistic amongst us thought Russell would probably round into a key player by the time conference play came around, but at least through one game, there's little reason to doubt that that will come sooner rather than later.
With Russell, roommate and fellow freshman Jae'Sean Tate, sophomore Marc Loving and Sam Thompson all in double figures for the Buckeyes, though it won't come this easily every night, if Russell looks to form as the degree of difficulty increases, Thad Matta will have a mighty good problem to deal (in terms an on the court impact) with as the freshman's NBA stock continues rising.
2. Jae'Sean Tate might just be the second most impactful newcomer. While Keita Bates-Diop did the small things well, his shot wasn't there early and he wasn't even in the same zip code as Russell in terms of early newcomer impact. With graduate transfer Anthony Lee also resigned to a quiet debut impact, Jae'Sean Tate not so quietly made his presence known amongst the first timers.
Playing way bigger than his 6'4 frame, Tate was every bit as advertised with the kind of motor you love to have from a guy of any stature. Be it getting rebounds over taller players (albeit slightly taller given that the tallest athlete on the Cavaliers was often 6'6) demonstrating an intermediate stroke, or throwing down an alley oop from his roommate Russell, Tate might be a lot better a lot quicker than many of us even anticipated
3. There's no assurances the interior play is fixed yet. So-called "Good Amir" made waves out of the opening tip, showing some good hustle play, looking decent on the glass, and even converting an and-one opportunity. But after being spelled to get Trey McDonald some burn (who didn't exactly look a ton better than the version of him we've seen in past seasons), Williams was never quite able to get into rhythm the rest of the game.
Finishing with 5 points and 5 boards is certainly permissible, but when you're doing so against guys four or five inches shorter (or more) and you're also picking up fouls to start the second half like it's your job, there's a lot of reason to think that as the opposition gets bigger, stronger, and better there's going to be problems.
It didn't help that Anthony Lee didn't look like a marked improvement over Williams (or McDonald) as many had hoped. He had brief moments certainly, but the Temple cynics who weren't sad to see him depart may not have been completely off base -- at least based on the extremely premature returns through one contest.