First Thoughts From the Win Over Jackson State
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeyes were never tested in their 85-41 win against Jackson State on Friday night. The game was obviously never in doubt—Ohio State led 46-17 at the half.
Sometimes, however, blowouts are where you can discover certain things about players that you never would have in a close game, especially since half of the players on a Thad Matta team never get minutes in close games.
So, with that in mind, here's what I think I thought from a Buckeye blowout.
First Thought - While most people don't like these early-season cupcakes, I like them because they allow us to get a long look at the future of the program—the freshmen.
Shannon Scott played 23 minutes, Sam Thompson played 19, Amir Williams played 14 and Trey McDonald played seven. All got good time on the court, and all showed flashes of what they're capable of.
Williams pulled down seven rebounds in his time and showed a bit more burliness down low than he has to this point. He didn't look intimidated to be out there. In fact, it's clear that one day soon, he'll be the one doing the intimidating. Ohio State doesn't really have a shot-blocking threat, but when Williams is on the court, they absolutely do.
Thompson showed the hops that we all knew he had, but he also showed some nice touch on his jumpers. He was 0-2 from behind the three-point line, but I didn't think his shot looked uncomfortable.
Scott did what point guards do—he handed out six assists in just 23 minutes. He also turned the ball over five times, but that's going to happen to point guards, especially as freshmen. The three steals were a nice surprise. He's not so preoccupied with running an offense that he forgets to play defense.
That being said, until these freshmen are given the chance to show what they can do against the better teams on this schedule, they will continue to be unknowns for the most part.
Greedy Thought - Close your eyes. Picture yourself watching Ohio State basketball in March of 2014. March Madness. Can you see it? Can you see who's running the point for the Buckeyes? What if it's a senior Aaron Craft?
This kid is just three games into his sophomore season and he is dominating games in a myriad of ways. Just think how much better he's going to be if he stays in Columbus for all four years.
But you can't really let yourself think that, can you? Remember when we used to think that about Michael Conley? Where did that get you?
Maybe Craft is different though. Maybe he doesn't have the offensive flash to merit an early entry into the NBA. All he does is everything that you could ever ask a player to do, which for some reason has no place in the NBA.
Expecting four years of Craft—with each season getting successively better—is just flat out greedy. It's like winning the lottery and then playing the same numbers the next week and winning again. Then when you go to do it a third time, you miss it by one number and lament your bad luck.
The Buckeyes have had some outstanding point guards in the Thad Matta era—including Evan Turner, but Craft's ultimate contributions to this program could very well be bigger than all of the others combined.
Funny Thought - While watching Craft play defense, I find myself laughing quite a bit at how silly he makes others look.
There were three straight possessions around the twelve-minute mark of the first half that he shut down single-handedly. First there was a steal on a breakaway, then a charge, then another deflection followed by face-first defense on a desperation three. It was hilarious.
He is essentially an insult comic hurling barbs at unsuspecting rubes.
Well-Rounded Thought - Watching Deshaun Thomas this season, and especially tonight, you can see that he doesn't like being known simply as a slinger. He doesn't just want to be some hired gun who is on the court to shoot the ball, and if his shot isn't falling, then there's no reason for him to be out there to begin with.
Thomas knows that he's going to do more than score if this team is going to reach its goals. He showed that early against Jackson State by looking for teammates in positions to score. While he only finished with one assist, he had several other perfect passes that just weren't converted by his teammates.
Thad Matta and Thomas have talked about the sophomore's commitment to defense and rebounding, but it's also good to see that he's not always the black hole that he used to be last year. Teammates can throw him the ball and know that it might just be coming back to them for a change.
Deep Thought - No, not "Deep" as in "Meaningful", "Deep" as in "From Three-Point Land". Everybody knows that replacing Jon Diebler is not going to happen, but I again liked what I saw out of sophomore guard Jordan Sibert. He showed a very comfortable and quick release, and even his misses were soft.
But his ability to put the ball on the floor and his runner early in the game are what really got me thinking. Diebler couldn't do that until around February of his senior season, and if Sibert can get that shot down already, then he'll be somebody that other teams have to come in expecting to defend.
I do tend to think that he could use a bit more lift on his shot. I wonder if as the season goes on his shot will become more flat, or if he'll become easier to defend.
The test for Sibert will be to maintain the confidence that he's playing with right now. There will be slumps, and they tend to come at the worst time. He can't stop being an offensive threat, because that just makes it harder on everybody else to score.
Right now the rotation between Sibert and Lenzelle Smith is an exciting one as both are contributing in different ways. I enjoy seeing both of them out there, and the fact that there isn't enough minutes for the two of them is a great thing for this team.
Bad Thought - Blocked shots are going to be a thorn in the side of this team all year long. Given Sullinger's height and lack of lift on many of his shots, we've already seen his tendency to get his shot blocked.
Deshaun Thomas isn't much different—except he's shorter. I'm guessing half of his offensive rebounds in his career will come from having his own shot blocked, then recovering it.
The Buckeyes are going to have some rough nights offensively against shot blockers this season, which is probably why Matta will want Sullinger to get that man in foul trouble as quickly as possible.
Final Thought - If you're not a Lenzelle Smith fan, then you're just not paying attention.
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