Another Day at the Beach

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Last updated: 12/08/2012 4:26 PM

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Men's basketball
Another Day at The Beach
Buckeyes Cruise Past Long Beach State for Sixth Victory
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Give Long Beach State coach Dan Monson credit, his team played a whale of a schedule over the first month of the 2012-13 basketball season.

Deshaun Thomas
Photo by Jim Davidson
Deshaun Thomas

The 49ers had already faced teams like USC, North Carolina, Arizona, Fresno State and Syracuse by the time they made the trip to Columbus on Saturday. None of that helped them keep things close during an 89-55 loss to No. 7 Ohio State at Value City Arena.

“You have to put kids in adverse situations to see how they react. It’s hard but they need to figure it out,” Monson said after a game in which his team trailed by 14 at the half. 

“We try to embrace that. We’re trying to get mentally tougher and this team has got to grow up a little bit.”

The Buckeyes (6-1) got 18 points and four rebounds from junior Deshaun Thomas, but it was the play of his surrounding cast that made Ohio State’s margin for error much larger against an overmatched Long Beach State team that hardly resembled the one that lost to New Mexico in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament.

“We need Deshaun to score, but the best teams I’ve ever coached have had multiple scorers,” OSU head coach Thad Matta said.

“The ’07 team was a great example of that. Night to night, you never knew who would lead you in scoring. That’s the way we have to be, to be honest. Having different guys our there that can knock down shots is going to be advantageous for us.”

Lenzelle Smith
Photo by Jim Davidson
Lenzelle Smith

Thomas actually struggled with his shot early in the game, but the Buckeyes got a tremendous boost from Lenzelle Smith, Jr. Ohio State’s starting two-guard knocked down three of his four shots from behind the arc and finished with 14 points and nine rebounds in 24 minutes.

The Buckeyes also got 13 points and four rebounds from Sam Thompson, who electrified an otherwise subdued crowd with not one, but three thunderous alley-oop dunks. Two of them came off the finger tips of point guard Shannon Scott, who had three points, five rebounds, two steals and nine assists off the bench.

“It started with Trey (McDonald),” Matta said of his strong bench play, which included 37 points from the reserves.

“Who came off the bench and did what he needed to do: play great post defense and provide great energy. All of those guys played very well and very cohesively.”

Fellow sophomore LaQuinton Ross added 16 points and nine rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench, proving he was capable of an encore after his career performance against Northern Kentucky last week.

LaQuinton Ross and Thad Matta
Photo by Jim Davidson
LaQuinton Ross and Thad Matta

Ross misfired on all five of his shots from behind the arc, but did a good job making the necessary adjustments to take the ball inside and get to the basket or the free throw line.

“He needs to focus on all of the little aspects of the game, and to his credit he has done that recently and been very tuned-in in practice and in games,” Matta said.

“He is playing his best basketball.”

If nothing else, this game against Long Beach State (3-6) was a great opportunity for the Buckeyes to show what they could do when they play as a team. Ohio State outrebounded Long Beach 49-33 and scored 16 points off 13 49er turnovers.

More impressively, the Buckeyes assisted on 22 of their 31 made field goals and held Long Beach State to just 31 percent shooting, including a 5-of-20 mark from long distance.

“Defensively they just got into us and frustrated us,” Monson said after his point guard went 1-of-11 from the floor.

“(Aaron) Craft is as good of an on-ball defender as anyone in the country. Mike (Caffey) is going to be a good point guard for us, but you have to give all the credit to Aaron.”

Craft left the game with a cut above his right eye late in the second half. He returned to the bench with a bandage on his forehead and even played a few minutes down the stretch, despite the fact Matta said he could need as many as six stitches above his eye.

“I didn’t look at it because I can’t see blood,” Matta said with an awkward chuckle.

Craft scored five points, had three rebounds and dished out three assists in just 19 minutes, partially because of the injury but also because he picked up three fouls in the first half.

The biggest play of the game for Craft, however, came on a pass from Deshaun Thomas. The Buckeyes swung the ball around the perimeter, and Thomas passed up a decent look at the top of the arc for a wide open three in the corner from Craft, who buried the shot to give Ohio State a 33-25 lead in the first half.

It was a big moment for Craft, who had missed nine of his last 10 shots from behind the arc, and Scott would have a similar moment later in the game, connecting on just his second make of the season from long range.

The Buckeyes pulled away down the stretch with a 15-5 run and outscored Long Beach State 50-30 in the second half.  All 11 Buckeyes scored, including freshman Amedeo Della Valle and former walk-on Alex Rogers, who had the final basket of the game.

Ohio State will play again on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network) when they host Savannah State at Value City Arena.

Box Score

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