First Thoughts - Nebraska

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Last updated: 01/02/2013 11:37 PM
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Men's Basketball
First Thoughts From OSU's 70-44 Win Over Nebraska
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State got the Big Ten season started in fine fashion, stifling a stumbling Cornhusker basketball team that will keep other programs out of the Big Ten basement for years to come.

The Buckeyes were led, as they need to be, by Deshaun Thomas with 22 points and Lenzelle Smith with 17 points. When those two are combining for around 20 points a piece, Ohio State can then get away with zero points from Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott.

It also helps when they are playing Nebraska.

But it wasn't just a two-man offensive game for the Buckeyes, as defense was again key. Nebraska shot just 30.4% from the field and they were harassed all game long. This was not a talented offensive basketball team, and the Buckeyes made them earn most of their points.

Ohio State shot fairly well in this game, hitting 49.2% of their shots, but it was the defense that was the difference, and it will have to be the difference most nights this season.

Inside Man. I've said that I'd like to see Deshaun Thomas take more shots from inside the paint, and he did that against Nebraska.

Thomas took 12 shots from inside the three-point line. It was the first time he took that many two-pointers since games against Washington and Rhode Island in November. Against Rhode Island he scored 25 points and against Washington he scored 31 points. Tonight, he scored 22 points. These aren't coincidental numbers. They are also his three highest point totals on the season.

Yes, Thomas can score from everywhere, but he limits himself when he falls in love with the three-point shot. He only took four three-pointers in this game, making two. It was the first time he made at least half of his three-point attempts in five games. He appears intent on getting the rest of his game going, and letting the three-point shooting return in time.

Time Machine. In case you missed it, you got to see the Aaron Craft of old in this game. He didn't score a single point, only took four shots, and controlled the entire contest. Basketball was fun again.

He had six rebounds, eight assists, three steals and zero turnovers. He was everywhere Nebraska's offense wanted to be, but wasn't allowed to go. We all know he's a tremendous on-ball defender, but when he's allowed to freelance off of his man, he's almost able to defend an entire team. He is a remarkable nuisance.

Left of Center. For the second straight game, Amir Williams scored with his left hand. I like it because he's able to shield defenders with his right hand and actually get the shot off with his left hand. When he goes up with two hands, the ball rarely gets past his shoulder.

Though, to be fair, he did power one in with both hands, but he has yet to look comfortable on offense this season, though things are improving of late.

Overall, this was one of Williams' best games. He grabbed seven rebounds, blocked four shots and had two steals in just 18 minutes, while not turning it over at all. He eventually needs to start adding something on the offensive rebounding end, but Thad Matta will gladly take more games like this from Williams.

Not So Danger Zone. The Buckeye offense did pretty well against Nebraska's zone defense. It was a concern the last time out, but they attacked it with Deshaun Thomas at the free throw line, and they were successful.

It also didn't hurt that they were 7-17 (41.2%) from three-point range. That always seems to help. Buckeye starters were 7-13 from three-point territory, thanks to Thomas (2-4) and Lenzelle Smith (5-7).

When those two are hitting their three-point shots, this team can compete with anybody. When they aren't hitting those shots, however, this team might be two games over .500 in conference play come March.

Quick Thoughts. When the Buckeyes face another big man who can put the ball on the floor like Brandon Ubel, I expect Amir Williams to have a few issues defensively. As long as he adjusts like he did in this game, however, things shouldn't be too bad... It's intriguing to think about what this team could look like next year if Deshaun Thomas would choose to return. He can still get better with his all around game. He's not going to become a better athlete. The mock drafts that I have seen have him going in the second round. He will certainly have a difficult decision to make. Some players simply want to get the careers started, just like any other college student... I liked the confidence that LaQuinton Ross showed in this game. It's games like this where he needs to build the confidence with his offensive game, and the only way to do that is through results. At times tonight he looked like the best guy at the open gym... Just curious, why does Sam Thompson refuse to dunk any of Aaron Craft's alley oop passes? Is there a grudge there? And yet Thompson can snag a Shannon Scott pass that is three feet off course and slam it down. Is he maybe jealous of Craft's singing ability? His Rubik's Cube skills? Both? Probably both.

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