First Thoughts - Chicago State

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Last updated: 12/29/2012 9:24 PM
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Men's Basketball
First Thoughts From the Buckeyes' 87-44 Win Over Chicago State
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It wasn't always pretty, but it was also never in doubt. Chicago State stayed with the Buckeyes for a good portion of the first half, but Ohio State eventually pulled away as everyone knew they would.

Sometimes when players have those same blowout expectations, they forget that they're actually the ones responsible for making that blowout happen. It make take a half before they realize this, and that seems to be what happened in this one.

Once the Buckeyes realized that their participation was instrumental in the outcome, they turned it on, outscoring Chicago State by 30 points in the second half.

It was a game that bored them at times, or maybe they were still hungover from the Kansas game. Regardless, it's pretty clear that they're ready to be done with the non-conference schedule, and they'd rather be playing Big Ten games. Though with the conference schedule that they have, they might want to be careful what they wish for.

Well Rounded. It seems weird to say this, but I think Deshaun Thomas is Ohio State's most complete player. Not just the best player, but the best all-around player.

Thomas finished with eight rebounds and four assists, along with his normal 17 points. He threw some of the best post passes of his career in this game, and did well off of the dribble as well.

Early in the game against Chicago State's full-court press, Thomas was the press breaker. Late in the game, he took a charge with the Buckeyes up by 30 points. In other words, he's come a long way.

He was 7-13 from the field, which is the first time he was over .500 since the game before the Duke loss. His three-point shot still isn't falling as consistently as it will, but he's making up for it in most every other area, just as a great player should.

The Starting Block. So Amir Williams got his first ever start in this game. Thad Matta credited it to Williams' work in practice, as well as Evan Ravenel's lack of work.

I didn't really see anything different out of Williams, except that maybe he was a little more active on defense. Ravenel, meanwhile, responded with 10 rebounds in 16 minutes of play.

To me, this was as much about Ravenel as it was Williams. Matta's motivational ploy worked in regards to Ravenel, but how often can he play this card?

I like Ravenel coming off of the bench because he brings more scoring than Williams. The Buckeyes don't necessarily need Williams to score when he's on the court with the rest of the starting five.

However, how long will Ravenel be okay with coming off of the bench, and what happens to Williams' psyche if he gets sent back to the bench?

Hopefully both players realize that "starting" is little more than a superficial label. They need to take a look at Shannon Scott. He doesn't start, but that doesn't lessen his importance even a little.

Shooting Scars. Ohio State seemed to carry the Kansas game into the early parts of this game as well, at least when it came to their shooting.

The Buckeyes were just 2-9 from three-point range in the first half, most of those open looks, just as they were against Kansas. They corrected things in the second half, however, and went 6-8 from three over the final 20 minutes, finishing 8-17 overall.

However, with LaQuinton Ross and Amadeo Della Valle combining to go 5-7, we can't really say the Buckeyes are out of their slump, considering neither of those two would necessarily get that many looks against a quality opponent.

It will be hard for Ohio State to beat the top of the Big Ten if Craft, Smith and Thomas are all having off nights from three-point territory. I don't see either Ross or Della Valle being called upon in situations where the Buckeyes are struggling this season, so it will be up to Craft, Smith and Thomas to get themselves out of any slumps that they may find themselves in.

Craft and Smith combined to shoot 2-5 from three in this game, which is fine. Ideally they would be more like 3-7, but you can't argue with 40% from three-point territory.

However, if Thomas is only going to go 1-5, then his struggles almost negate the guards' complementary shooting.

They do seem to be lessening their dependence on the three-point shot, but if they continue to shoot 13-27 from the free throw line, every miss from the field will be magnified as well.

With the way this team can forget how to shoot for long stretches at a time, they can't afford to also give away free throws when it comes to the games that matter.

At Its Peak. I think this team is at its best when Lenzelle Smith is the second scorer. That is, when his shot is falling and he's actually scoring, not when it's not falling and he thinks he needs to keep shooting. There's a big difference.

Smith can get a shot whenever he would like, but when he's scoring in the course of the offense, this team can be pretty hard to stop. When he gets to the basket here and there, that just makes him a much tougher cover.

Too often there are times when Smith is only the third-best guard on the court and he gets lost in the fray. Of all of the players on this team, for some reason I see Smith as having the finest line between unselfish and selfish.

I think he needs to be more aggressive on average, but then there are times where he's too aggressive outside of the flow of the offense, and it doesn't help the team.

That being said, I don't think he should ever apologize for shooting, provided he is taking the best shot that the offense could get on that possession.

Getting Defensive. Chicago State hit eight field goals in the first half and just five in the second half. I think at least half of those came with a hand in the face and probably shouldn't have dropped in.

The Buckeyes know that while their shooting may come and go, there's no reason that their defense should do the same. Defenses don't slump unless players simply don't want to put in the effort.

Shooters can go into a slump for any number of reasons, and effort doesn't have to be one of them. Sometimes shooting just goes on vacation for a while. Defense, however, has no such luck.

So far, so good for the Buckeyes in that regard. In a game that they may or may not have been all that interested in, they came to play defensively, as they have all season long. It will be their defense that helps them overcome their poor shooting nights, and they know this.

Quick Thoughts. It was good to see LaQuinton Ross return to offensive form with his 15 points. I was beginning to wonder if he was going to slink into the background with conference play around the corner. It would appear that he is not yet ready to fade away... OSU's inability to get the ball inbounded to its guards against the full court press was a bit of a concern in the first half. Though it would seem the Buckeyes would openly invite a full court press when they've got their two point guard lineup on the court... With the Buckeyes struggling from the field early against Chicago State's zone defense, I wonder how often the Buckeyes will face the same thing in the Big Ten. It limited the drives by Craft and Shannon Scott, and almost makes Sam Thompson invisible. And as long as Thomas is struggling from deep, I'm not sure there will always be enough shooting to make a defense pay.

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