Buckeyes Avoid Finals Hangover, Rout Savannah State
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Finals are done and so is Savannah State.
Ohio State head coach Thad Matta wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from his team coming off the first final exams since the University switched from academic quarters to semesters this fall.
The Buckeyes passed the test; at least the one on the court Wednesday night. They’ll have to wait and see about their scores in the classroom, but Matta’s players showed focus and determination during an altogether comfortable 85-45 win over visiting Savannah State University (5-5).
“We said, ‘Hey, can we get 75 on this team,’ ” Matta said after the game.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“That was kind of the battle cry. I thought that was a legitimate request. I thought they did a pretty good job of understanding. Guys were out there early and ready to go.”
Preseason All-American Deshaun Thomas played like one in the first half, outscoring the Tigers 21-18 all by himself. He went inside, he went outside and he found the touch that makes him one of the most dangerous scorers in the country.
Thomas was 8-of-15 from the floor and 4-of-6 from behind the arc in the first half. He also grabbed five rebounds as the Buckeyes raced out to a 42-18 halftime lead.
“I guess we didn’t understand that Deshaun Thomas could shoot the basketball because we left him open a lot,” Savannah State head coach Horace Broadnax said.
The Buckeyes (7-1) led 14-4 at the under 12 media timeout – thanks to a scrappy 9-0 run – and they pushed that lead to 23-7 at the 8:35 mark of the first half on a threeball from Thomas.
Photo by Jim Davidson
They led by 19 in the final 1:30 of the first half, when Thomas and Shannon Scott connected on back to back threes to give the Buckeyes a 24-point halftime lead. Scott swishes his triple from the corner on a pass from Aaron Craft, stole the inbounds pass and nearly connected on another long-distance shot as time expired.
“The coaches want me to be more aggressive and be ready to make shots,” said Scott, Ohio State’s second-year point guard. “Every day, I practice making those shots and it feels nice to be able to produce during the game.
“Once I start making shots, the defense tries to take it away. This opens the lane for drives and to find open players who can make plays. This lets us spread the floor and attack their defense.”
Photo by Jim Davidson
Scott finished with 12 points, three assists and four steals. Thomas would finish the game with just 22 points – he did get seven rebounds – but sophomore LaQuinton Ross would take over the scoring for Ohio State in the second half.
After a scoreless first half, Ross took over down the stretch. He led the Buckeyes with 13 points in the second half and finished with nine rebounds and three steals in 26 minutes of action off the bench.
As a team, the Buckeyes drained more than 47 percent of their shots from the floor and shot 53 percent from behind the arc.
“We learned that we need to stay together. We have a great pace on offense and things will go well when we have a passion for the game,” said Thomas, Ohio State’s leading-scorer this season.
“This is what coach preached to us before the game – passion. We came out passionate tonight.”
The Buckeyes had 15 assists on their 28 made baskets, but they turned the ball over 20 times against a team that had not allowed more than 58 points in a game all season. Where Ohio State made up the difference was on the glass.
Matta’s squad out-rebounded the Tigers 48-21 for the game, including 19-7 on the offensive glass. They also tallied 26 second-chance points. A big reason for that was starting center Evan Ravenel, who scored 11 points and tallied a career-high nine rebounds in just 17 minutes of action.
“I sat down with Coach Matta and the other coaches and talked about my performance before the game,” said Ravenel, the team’s lone senior.
“I told them what I wanted and they told me what I needed to do to make this happen. It’s playing hard. I felt the energy today. If I play hard and play with energy, good things happen.”
Ohio State also got nine points, six rebounds and a few more highlight-reel dunks from sophomore Sam Thompson. Lenzelle Smith, Jr. added eight points and four rebounds, while Arnold Louis led Savannah State with 14 points off the bench.
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