Buckeyes Bounce Back, Beat Boilers
By Brandon Castel
Sam Thompson hit the biggest shot of the night and Aaron Craft rediscovered his offense in the second half, but it was Deshaun Thomas who made the most of his Indiana homecoming on Tuesday night in West Lafayette.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The Fort Wayne product always has a smile on his face when he is playing his home state, but Thomas was all business against the Boilermakers of Purdue in a latenight tipoff on ESPN.
Coming off an embarrassing 19-point loss at Illinois over the weekend, the Buckeyes got out to a much-needed fast start against a Purdue team that upset the Fighting Illini in the very same Mackey Arena less than a week ago.
“I thought we had an element of composure about us, that we had to have it.,” OSU head coach Thad Matta told reporters after the game.
“With this crowd, I thought they handled it well. I thought they did a good job of comprehending everything they need to do. This was about as team win as you could possibly have.”
Thomas, who holds the No. 3 spot on Indiana’s all-time high school scoring list, was scoring from just about everywhere on the court. The smooth-shooting lefty had 14 of his game-high 22 points in the first half of Ohio State’s 74-64 win over the Boilermakers (7-8, 1-2 Big Ten).
“I’m so excited for Deshaun. I thought he was so efficient tonight in his play,” Matta said.
“He’s come so far in his three years in this program. From the day he arrived to where he is today, I'm excited for him. He’s worked really, really hard.”
Craft missed most of the first half with foul trouble, but backup Shannon Scott came off the bench and led the way for Thad Matta’s team in the first half. He scored four points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out five assists and Ohio State (12-3, 2-1) took a 39-29 lead into halftime.
“He had a way about him, a demeanor about him, understanding where we wanted the ball and when we wanted it there,” Matta said of Scott.
“Defensively, he really picked up on what we were trying to implement to slow them down a little bit. That’s big for us. Having him play at that level is something this team definitely needs.”
The Buckeyes also got six points off the bench from LaQuinton Ross in the first half, and senior Evan Ravenel turned in his best game of the season – and maybe of his career – with 13 points, five rebounds and a trio of blocks at the defensive end.
“Evan did what Evan is supposed to do and he did it with great energy,” Matta said.
“A month ago when I talked to him about having great energy, he looked at me like I was nuts. I think he is seeing how much of a better player he will be if he has that demeanor about him.”
Ravenel’s effort made up for another lackluster first half from sophomore Amir Williams, who started the third-straight game for Matta and the Buckeyes.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Ohio State led just 7-6 when Craft went to the bench with his second foul in the first half, but they would race out to a 31-17 lead with Scott running the offense. Thomas did most of the heavy lifting, but Thompson capped a 7-0 run midway through the first half with an electrifying one-handed slam over Purdue’s 7-foot center A.J. Hammons.
Craft returned in the second half, and apparently was tired of his view next to Matta and his assistant coaches on the bench. Since hitting five threes in the season opener, Ohio State’s junior point guard has struggled to score the basketball in any capacity.
He may have rediscovered something Tuesday night. He scored 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting to help the Buckeyes hold off a comeback by Purdue in the second half.
“I was so excited for him to see the ball going in,” Matta said.
“His reads were really, really good, in terms of the timing of getting to where he was going. I would love to have that every night. He’s really been shooting the ball well the last couple days.”
The Boilers ripped off a 10-2 run in the final minutes to cut the score to 70-64 on their home floor, but Lenzelle Smith came down with a huge defensive rebound – one of 10 boards for him on a night where he couldn’t buy a basket.
Craft held the ball on the next possession and then dished it to the wing for Thompson, who knocked down one of the biggest shots of his young career to put the game away for good.
It was a much-needed victory for the Buckeyes, who will host archrival Michigan on Sunday in Columbus. It will be the return of Columbus-native Trey Burke, who is one of the top players in the Big Ten, and the country, this season.
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