After opening the season with three games that did little to inspire confidence from Buckeye Nation, Ohio State followed them up with three blowouts, against Western Carolina, Jackson State, and finally Marshall on Friday night. The Buckeyes moved to 6-0 on the young season with an impressive 111-70 win. The offensive total marked the first time that OSU surpassed the century mark since a 100–55 victory against Wright State on December 27th, 2014; it also tied for the most points in the Thad Matta era.
Though the Thundering Herd was anything but shy when it came to shooting from range, the Buckeyes made the most of their size and athletic advantages early and often on Friday night. After Marshall took a 3-0 lead on their first possession, Ohio State scored the next seven, and never looked back, extending to a 27-14 lead at the under 12-minute media timeout.
For the second game in a row, the Buckeyes took to the hardwood without forward Keita Bates-Diop, who suffered a sprained ankle a week-and-a-half ago against Western Carolina. Fortunately for the home team, they didn’t miss his 10.3 points per game, as Thad Matta’s team seemed to bring a newly found up-tempo flow to the offense as they focused on pounding the ball into the paint. The Buckeyes finished the game with 62 points around the rim.
After the team employed a more grinding, methodical offense in the opening five games, the focus on both the inside and transition games opened up Buckeye shooters from beyond the arc. After the first period, Ohio State led 60-37, as they shot 6-15 for 40% from beyond the arc, and 16-22 from inside five feet. The offensive output marked the first time that the Buckeyes had scored 60 points in a first half since they did so against Chicago State in 1991.
In the first half, senior forward Marc Loving hit a three from the top of the key to make him the 53rd player in Ohio State history to eclipse the 1,000-point mark, Loving finished his best game of the year with 20 points and 14 boards. Also in the first half, starting center Micah Potter was cut under the eye and had to receive three stitches from the team doctor. On his second shot after returning to the game, he hit a three-pointer to extend the Buckeye lead to 41-17. He finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, marking his first double-double as a Buckeye.
The first half was full of athletic plays from the Buckeyes including a number of dunks, alley-oops, and circus shots. They were helped by a Marshall defense that was porous at best. The Herd’s starting forward Ryan Taylor was suspended for the game, following a blowup against Jackson State on Monday. Three Buckeyes finished the first half in double figures, Loving and Kam Williams with 11 and Trevor Thompson with 15.
Williams continued his hot shooting from behind the arc going five for nine to finish with 17 points on the night. Junior guard Jon Elmore led the way for The Herd with 25 points and six assists. His backcourt mate Austin Loop also chipped in with 15.
The second half brought a more aggressive Marshall opening up with a 15-5 run to cut the OSU lead to 65-49. The Buckeyes responded by shaking off the halftime cobwebs and going on a 15-2 run to reassert their dominance, 82-54.
The Buckeyes dominated the boards all night, out rebounding Marshall 61-32 overall, and 27-12 on the offensive glass.
The Buckeyes next take to the court on Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. ET in Charlottesville, VA, as they battle the Virginia Cavaliers in the Big Ten/ACC Shootout for the second year in a row. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
3 things we learned
1. Ohio State is a better team when they play inside-out. When a team possesses the size-advantage that OSU did against Marshall, scoring from the paint should be lopsided, however, the Buckeyes’ dominance in the lane was more than just offensive put-backs, although there were plenty of those as well.
In transition and from half-court sets, the Bucks were conscious of getting high-percentage shots, and it paid off with the home team going 31-41 on layups and dunks for 62 points.
Ohio State clearly won’t have this type of size-advantage when they get into conference play, but it’s clear that if they can work inside-out, it will benefit both the bigs and the shooters, especially since in some cases, they are one-in-the-same.
2. Ohio State is a better team when they play with tempo. With a team returning its top six scorers from the last season, one would assume that athleticism would be a strength for the squad. However, early in the season, the Buckeyes have looked out of sorts on offense, but on Friday night, a renewed commitment to playing with tempo seemed to focus the specific skills of each individual player.
The shooters saw more space to get their shots up, the forwards were able to be more physical down low, and the offensive spacing was the best it has been all season.
Ohio State will see much stiffer defense in the Big Ten season, and in their next game against UVA on Wednesday, but if Matta and company is looking for a blueprint on how to maximize the team’s offensive output, I would humbly suggest the Marshall game-tape.
3. Ohio State’s frontcourt will hold its own in the Big Ten. The Big Ten is known for its bruising big men, and while I don’t think that anyone would put Potter and Thompson in that category, they proved that when the offense is flowing, they should be able to at least hold their own against the conference’s best. Even though Potter tried his hand at a few threes, he was a consistent presence under the rim on both sides of the court.
They were also helped by their bigger wings, Loving and Tate specifically, mixing it up in the lane as well. Again, they will get more resistance down low in the coming months, but against Marshall, Potter, Thompson, et al. gave fans reason to think that they won’t be pushed around throughout the B1G season.