First Thoughts From a Win Over VMI
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio —It's not every night you get to watch a game of pick-up basketball at Value City Arena...thankfully.
The Buckeyes shot a ridiculous 67.6% from the field in their 107-74 win over the VMU Keydets, and probably should have shot 75% given the defense they were facing.
These types of games are a lot like the Spring Game in football—it's only fun for about the first half.
First Thought — Fans will ask why these types of games are scheduled, but the Buckeyes will need as many different looks in the non-conference as they can get in order to prepare for what they might eventually face in the NCAA Tournament.
When the starters are only playing 20 minutes of a 40-minute game, some of those lessons might not be fully learned in just one game.
It's not just about the starters, because the reserves also got to play their most significant minutes of the season. Ten of the twelve Buckeyes played at least 14 minutes, and the two who didn't played seven and eight minutes respectively.
Thad Matta is not only using this game to prepare for future postseason games, but he's also trying to find out which of his reserves will be able to help him on their way to said postseason.
Evan-ly Thought — I have been impressed with Evan Ravenel's offensive game this season, but tonight I was finally convinced that he's not just some awkward big man who simply needs to park in the paint and survive on putbacks for sustenance. Watching him take jumpers, or put the ball on the floor, he is much more offensively advanced than I have given him credit for.
I came into this season not knowing what to expect from him, and after the first two games I was thinking that if he could have the type of impact as a Dallas Lauderdale or Othello Hunter, then that would be great. But he's not like those players. He could score 10-14 points per night if the team needed him to. He's comfortable with the ball and is confident of his abilities. At no point has he seemed like some gangly big man who shouldn't be drifting 16 feet from the basket.
I still don't expect him to have the defensive or rebounding impact of Lauderdale or Hunter, but to this point he is playing like he would be a starter on most teams in the conference, and I
suspect that he will only get better.
Rejected Thought — Amir Williams played eight minutes and blocked four shots (and four personal fouls). They were the only blocked shots the Buckeyes had on the night.
I've already said here that Williams has the potential to be a defensive force, and after seeing his offensive struggles to this point, there's no shame in striving for the Ken Johnson career path.
Johnson patrolled the middle for the Buckeyes for four years and developed his offense gradually, but always survived on his defense. Williams doesn't have to become Jared Sullinger next year when Sullinger is in the NBA because there will always be scorers on Matta's teams. All he needs to do is be the defensive presence he's always been, and develop an offensive game over time.
Ken Johnson was mostly a dunker until he developed a bit of a hook shot and turnaround jumper later in his career. But as a senior he was absolutely an offensive threat, and Williams can do the exact same thing.
Self-Restraining Thought — Time for some further admiration of Deshaun Thomas, who—on a night where quick shots were okay—stayed patient with the basketball and only took five shots in his 17 minutes of play.
Thomas only missed once, which shows the tremendous restraint and maturity that he is playing with right now.
Everybody loves to see Thomas score, but they love to see him not worrying about scoring even more. He knows that he won't be forgotten in this offense, and he seems perfectly fine with that.
Pressing Thought — I'm not sure if pressing Aaron Craft is ever going to be a good gameplan for 40 minutes for an opposing team.
Against VMI, Craft was routinely pitted against two or three Keydet defenders in the backcourt and would wave off a teammate as he dribbled around the defense like a cone drill.
I lost track of how many points this scored, but it was a lot, and he never looked out of control. The pressing led to seven first-half assists for the sophomore, and would have led to a lot more had Craft's night not been over with early on.
Defenses have to pick their poison with Craft. Either press him and let him beat you full court, or set up your half-court defense and prepare to defend Jared Sullinger and William Buford. You decide.
Coast-to-Coast Thought — I absolutely love how Lenzelle Smith hits the glass, be it offensive or defense. But for me, the best part is when he grabs a defensive rebound and immediately starts back up the court looking either to go coast-to-coast, or looking to advance it to the nearest man in scoring position. He wants to push the ball as soon as he gets it, and that is going to lead to a bunch of points this season.
He's also a tremendous offensive rebounder—he led the team with three on the night—and is quick enough to either get a shot back up, or to back it out and set up another possession. He is a coach's dream.
Final Thought — If Shannon Scott is going to be hitting floaters his entire career, he and Aaron Craft may become the most hated backcourt in Big Ten history.
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