First Thoughts From the Buckeyes' 89-55 Win Over Long Beach State
By Tony Gerdeman
It was your typical Saturday non-conference noon tipoff for the #7 Buckeyes (6-1), as they dispatched Long Beach State (3-6) quite easily, thanks especially to a 50-30 scoring margin in the second half.
Photo by Jim Davidson
It was one of those games that you sit there just waiting for a Sam Thompson dunk, knowing that you'll eventually be rewarded. We were rewarded three times in this one, all on standard explosions that we have come to expect.
Despite the blowout nature of the game, there was never a point when the Buckeyes just started going one-on-one, as they continued to move the ball unselfishly all game long. They finished with 22 assists on 31 field goals, which is something that the coaches will take every single time out.
Ohio State never looked bored in the game, and maybe that came from the fact that everybody got to play, and just about everybody got to play early.
Matta's tight bench appears to be loosening, but finding minutes for everyone won't always come as easy as it did in this game.
Bench Mark. Ohio State got 37 points from the bench, and while that's not going to happen very often, it does show us that there are reserves on this team who can definitely step up and make an impact given an opportunity.
Trey McDonald didn't look like the freshman post player that he was last year. Back then, he played like he knew he wasn't ready to be out there. Now he looks like he understands what he is supposed to do, and he believes that he belongs. Self-confidence can go a long way, but it still needs to come with production, and McDonald did that with four points and four rebounds in this one.
At this point, Shannon Scott is essentially a sixth starter. Aaron Craft was in foul trouble and got a cut over his eye, and the offense never missed a beat. Scott finished with nine assists, five rebounds, two steals and just one turnover. It's clear that he can run this team just fine, which is a luxury that the vast majority of teams do not have.
The bulk of the bench's 37 points game from LaQuinton Ross, who scored 16. Like McDonald and Scott, Ross grows more comfortable by the day. He is no longer just a guy who stands behind the three-point line and shoots open jumpers. He drives, he rebounds, and today he created for others. He finished with nine rebounds and four assists, proving that he's not just a gunner.
Slick Ross. Each game we get to see a little more to Ross' game. Today we got to see him distribute the ball as a cog in the wheel, rather than simply thinking he was the end product.
There were a couple of times when he passed up a good shot so that his teammate could get a better one. He did this on the wing once, kicking it to Lenzelle Smith on the baseline for a more open three. Smith missed the shot, but Ross ran down into the paint and came down with the offensive rebound.
Just that little exhibition showed progress in so many different ways. First, it showed us that Ross doesn't feel the need to shoot when every opportunity arises. Second, it showed us that he knows where his teammates are, and which ones are open. Third, it showed us that Ross knows what it takes to stay in Thad Matta's rotation.
Not many teams have a guy who is 6'8" that can grab a rebound and begin a fast break on the dribble. Ross has rare abilities, and he should only make his skills even more well known as the season continues.
Secret Weapon. I know I said it last year, and it sure looks this way again now, but when Lenzelle Smith's shot is falling, the Buckeyes are as good as anybody.
Guys like Smith who do all of the little things are often on the court despite a sacrifice in some scoring. With Smith, that sacrifice doesn't necessarily need to be there.
When the shot isn't falling, he can sometimes force it in order to get them falling. This negates some of his value, but it's still better than him not being any type of threat on offense at all.
I don't think he or Aaron Craft should be labeled as this team's #2 scorer, because I don't think either thrive in that role. They should simply play the game and see what happens. That will also make them harder to defend.
Confidence Scheme. I can't help but be impressed by Sam Thompson's new shooting stroke. It looks comfortable and natural, and over his last four games he's 3-7 from three-point range.
As Jim Jackson mentioned during the game, the key with a new stroke is to see results, or else you start losing confidence in what you are doing. So far, confidence doesn't seem to be an issue, and I base that more on the shots that he's actually taking, as opposed to the shots that go in.
Confidence isn't on display just on makes. A confident shot can be missed just as easily as it can be made. Thompson had a catch-and-shoot from the top of the key that missed, but it told me that he is confident in that shot, and so are his coaches. It's a shot that this team needs as part of the offense, and Thompson had no qualms about taking it.
The fact that there is no hesitation in Thompson's shot speaks volumes to where his shot is right now, even if it isn't dropping as often as he'd like.
Craft Work. I found it interesting that Thad Matta put Craft back in the game in the first half when he already had two fouls on him. There will be some very important games this year when Craft has two first-half fouls, and Matta won't have any choice but to keep him in. This gave Craft a chance to play with two fouls.
He picked up his third foul on a bad call, but that's part of the game. Craft can't play the same way on defense with two fouls as he does with one. Now he knows that. The real question is whether "foul trouble" Craft can avoid playing defense like regular Aaron Craft. Perhaps Matta needed to find that out as well.
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