Breakdown of the Purdue win.

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Last updated: 01/09/2013 3:20 AM

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Men's Basketball
Breaking Down Ohio State’s Win at Purdue
By Brandon Castel

The 15th-ranked Buckeyes got a win they desperately needed Tuesday night in West Lafayette, and it came at the exact right time. The 74-65 win over Purdue was probably Ohio State’s best victory of the season, at least in terms of quality, and it came against a team that is now sub-.500 on the season.

The Boilermakers are always dangerous at home, however, and they knocked off Illinois in that same building less than a week ago. Here is a complete player-by-player breakdown of Ohio State’s second Big Ten victory.

The Starting 5

Amir Williams
Photo by Jim Davidson
Amir Williams

23 Amir Williams (6-11, So.) — It was a slow start for Amir Williams on Tuesday night, agonizingly slow. While he can look so good at times, the way he did against Kansas center Jeff Withey, there are times where it has to be frustrating for Matta to watch Williams jog up and down the court. He couldn’t seem to do anything right in the first half against Purdue, but give the sophomore credit. He came out in the second half with a little more energy. He finished the game with four points, but had a couple nice dunks, three rebounds and two blocks in the second half. That’s not exactly filling up the stat sheet, but it was good to see him snap out of his funk a little bit after halftime.

Deshaun Thomas
Photo by Jim Davidson
Deshaun Thomas

1 Deshaun Thomas (6-7, Jr.) — There was nothing funky about Deshaun’s game on Tuesday night. He came in ready to shoot, and this time he had his mind in the right place and his shot was falling all over the place in the first half. He had his feet and hips square to the basket and he was ready to let it fly the moment he touched the basketball. Matta said earlier this week he doesn’t have a problem with Thomas shooting early in the clock because he can score with such ease.

He’s come a long way from the microwave days, where he used to come in and bomb airballs because he was so anxious to get off shots. Thomas was finding the right spots on the court Tuesday night, and he was working as hard as we have ever seen him without the basketball. That resulted in some nice open looks, and Thomas made the Boilermakers pay. He had 14 in the first half and scored eight in the first seven minutes of the second half but appeared to jam his left thumb. He would not score a point over the final 13+ minutes of the game.

Sam Thompson
Photo by Jim Davidson
Sam Thompson

12 Sam Thompson (6-7, So.) — This is the Sam Thompson everyone envisioned at the start of the year. Not only did he throw down a monster dunk on Purdue’s 7-foot center – how excited were you the second time he drove on A.J. Hammons? – but he made a number of key plays for OSU at both ends of the court. He scored only eight points in 36 minutes, but they were all big points. He also blocked two shots, but the big play of the game for Thompson came right at the end. A shaky and inconsistent jump shooter, Thompson pulled up with confidence on a long two off a pass from Aaron Craft. He knocked it down and really put the game away with that one. He also had a nice spinning fallaway off the glass earlier in the night.

Lenzelle Smith
Photo by Jim Davidson
Lenzelle Smith

32 Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (6-4, Jr.) — This wasn’t Lenzelle’s best game at Ohio State. It also probably wasn’t his worst, although it might have appeared that way at times. He was just 1-of-6 from the floor and had a coupe of ugly turnovers that led to baskets for Purdue, but Smith continued to hustle. He grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds in 26 minutes, including the big one at the end to set up Thompson’s game-sealing shot. That’s a lot of boards for a 6-4 shooting guard, but this team desperately needs Smith to make outside shots. They don’t have many other guys who can do it with regularity.

Aaron Craft
Photo by Jim Davidson
Aaron Craft

4 Aaron Craft (6-2, Jr.) — Welcome back, Aaron Craft. For the first time in a month and a half, Craft actually looked like himself at the offensive end of the floor. Or at least the guy OSU fans got to know a little bit last season, especially in the tournament. He continues to be a disruptive force at the defensive end, but Craft picked up two early fouls and spent most of the first half on the bench.

It looked like Shannon Scott was out there trying to take his job, but Craft came back strong in the second half. He figured out what was working for him and started to play with some aggression at the offensive end of the floor. The Buckeyes freed him up with some high ball screens, and Craft did a much better job of finishing at the rim. He also knocked down a couple jump shots that didn’t seem to have the hitch he developed at some point this season.

First 3 Off the Bench

Shannon Scott
Photo by Jim Davidson
Shannon Scott

3 Shannon Scott (6-1, So.) — Speaking of Scott, how good did this kid look in the first half against Purdue? The speedster out of Georgia played some of his best basketball against the Boilermakers Tuesday night. He was much better in the first half, when Craft was on the bench than he was when the two of them were out there together. That’s consistent with what I’ve been saying most of the year. He seems to play at his best when he’s got the ball in his hands and he’s responsible for running the offense. He tends to get lost when he is playing off the ball.

It’s tough, because Matta really doesn’t like to take Craft off the floor, but we got to see how good Scott could be when he was the only point guard out there in the first half. He had four points, five rebounds and five assists before the break, but more importantly the offense just seemed to run better – or at least more smoothly – when Scott was at the helm. His biggest problem right now is his inability to finish when he gets to the basket.

Evan Ravenel
Photo by Jim Davidson
Evan Ravenel

30 Evan Ravenel (6-8, Sr.) — We’ve said this before, but whatever got into Ravenel on Tuesday night, they need more of that. According to Matta, it was really just about playing with energy and enthusiasm for every minute he is out there on the court. I thought Rav did exactly that against Purdue, and he gave them a much-needed boost off the bench when Williams was struggling in the first half. He did miss on a wide-open dunk down the stretch, but it was such a good night for him that the ball was tipped up and in off the miss. He finished with 13 points, four rebounds and three blocks. Not bad for a guy who isn’t supposed to be a shot-blocked. He also hit an 18-foot jumper we didn’t know was in his arsenal, and really played some of his best basketball at both ends of the court.

10 LaQuinton Ross (6-8, So.) — Ross is another guy who played some of his best basketball on Tuesday. He came off the bench in the first half and looked a lot more like the guy we kept hearing about in practice. He looked more comfortable handling the ball and was aggressive getting to the basket, not settling for outside shots. Once he got there, Ross showed a great finesse ability around the rim. He scored six points and grabbed three rebounds in nine minutes in the first half and then didn’t play the rest of the game. That’s a bit of a head-scratcher, and probably another situation where Matta would do things differently, but he wanted Thompson to defend D.J. Byrd, Purdue’s most dangerous outside threat, in the second half.

Emptying the Bench

We didn’t get to see either Trey McDonald or Amedeo Della Valle in this game. It looks like Matta is going to roll with Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel as his primary big men, at least for now.

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