Buckeyes Steamroll Past Jackson State in 44-point Route
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — To prepare his team for Friday night’s matchup with winless Jackson State, Thad Matta broke out tapes of last season’s 81-41 win over North Carolina Wilmington.
The two schools have absolutely nothing to do with each other—one is in the middle of Mississippi and the other is on the coast—but Matta wanted to remind the Buckeyes how well last year’s team played coming off a big early-season win against Florida.
“One of the things we talked about before the game was coming off the Florida win last year in Gainesville, what we did when we came home against Wilmington,” Matta said.
“I put the numbers on the board and we were up 46-18 at halftime and won 81-41. It looks like by the scores there, they kind of took to hear what we were talking about.”
Coming off their big win over the No. 7-ranked Gators in Columbus this past Tuesday, Ohio State got off to a slow start against the Jaguars Friday night.
It didn’t last long.
Led by their steadfast point guard Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes (3-0) forced 26 turnovers, which turned into 41 points at the other end as they rolled past Jackson State (0-4) by a score of 85-41.
“I think he was talking out there and really trying to get guys going. One of the things we felt like we could do was score off our defense and we were pretty successful with that,” Matta said after the game.
“With a team that likes to zone you the whole game, we wanted to get out and try to get the ball up the floor as quick as we could.”
The Buckeyes were uncharacteristically sloppy in the early going, and actually fell behind to a Jackson State team that lost by 17 points at Wright State this past Wednesday. The Jaguars turned missed shots and careless turnovers into points at the other end and held an 11-10 lead at the 14 minutes mark in the first half.
It was all Ohio State after that.
Star sophomore Jared Sullinger came alive at the offensive end and Craft sparked things with his typically intrusive defense as the Buckeyes went on an 18-0 run to take a 28-11 lead on a layup by Sullinger at the 8:55 mark.
“I’m one of the USA Today Top 25 voters and I voted them No. 1 to begin (the season),” Jackson State coach Tevester Anderson said after the game.
“I thought they were just as good as North Carolina and seeing them up close tonight didn’t change my mind at all.”
If nothing else, it only enhanced it. The Buckeyes didn’t shoot the ball well from behind the arc—only 3-of-15—but they did just about everything else. They shot 48-percent from the floor and outrebounded the Jaguars 48-27 despite the fact Sullinger was only on the floor for 21 minutes.
That is tied for the second-fewest of his career (he played only 12 minutes in OSU’s win over Indiana last season in Columbus), but he still managed 20 points and 11 rebounds against Jackson State.
“That’s though. We have a big man at home that’s pretty good who had an eye surgery a few days ago,” Anderson said.
“So we didn’t have our best inside player with us, but it wouldn’t have made much difference. Sullinger is really, really good. He’s strong and he jumps so quick.”
The Buckeyes closed out the first half on a 36-6 run and took a 46-17 lead into the locker room. That allowed Matta to play all 12 of his guys, including freshmen Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, Amir Williams and even Trey McDonald.
Ohio State continued to pour it on in the second half. They opened with a 13-2 to give them a 40-point lead with 15:41 to play.
“They execute so well. They play so well together,” Anderson said.
“The chemistry is really, really good. I think coach Matta does a great job of coaching these guys.”
Sullinger went to the bench for the final time at the 16:02 mark, but even without him, the Buckeyes extended their lead to 48 points, at 76-28 with 8:27 to play. William Buford, Deshaun Thomas and Jordan Sibert each added 11 points. J.D. Weatherspoon scored eight off the bench, including a monstrous dunk, and Amir Williams added five points and seven rebounds in 14 minutes.
“They have good perimeter shooting and they have good guard play,” Anderson said.
“When you have good guard play and an inside presence who can make a different you have a chance to go a long way.”
The Buckeyes finished them off with four freshmen and Weatherspoon on the floor, and Anderson believes he saw one of the best teams in the country out there Friday night.
“Coach Matta and his Buckeyes have a very good basketball team. We played Florida and we played Baylor and this is a really outstanding team,” he said.
“I think this team has a chance to get back to the Final Four. I don’t see a weakness at all. We scouted them and our scouting report couldn’t find any weakness at all.”
Matta did not want to hear that about his young team this early in the season.
“In my mind, this team has so far to go. I don’t think we’re close to where we could end up,” he said.
“And there’s a lot of things that go into that. Mostly the mind and getting guys to understand the method of getting better.”
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