Breaking Down Ohio State’s 65-55 Win over Winthrop
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was about as ugly a win as Ohio State will put together all season. The Buckeyes narrowly squeaked by Winthrop University Tuesday night, a team they were projected to beat by nearly 30 points.
That may have been a hasty bet, considering the Buckeyes had to avoid looking ahead to their rematch with Kansas on Saturday in order to focus on a 4-4 basketball team. The Eagles were coming off an upset of Ohio University down in Athens, and they had another upset on their mind in this one.
Eventually, Deshaun Thomas was too much to handle on offense, while the Buckeyes finally found their edge on defense in the second half of a 65-55 win. Here’s a break down of what we saw from each player on the court Tuesday.
The Starting 5
Photo by Jim Davidson
30 Evan Ravenel (6-8, Sr.) — After probably his two best games in an Ohio State uniform, Ravenel was sort of a mixed bag against Winthrop on Tuesday night. He did finish the game with seven points and seven rebounds in just 24 minutes, but he also had four fouls and just never really seemed to find the same energy he had the last two times on the floor. Coach Matta will take the seven rebounds and run, and Ravenel seems to be coming along with each passing game. Saturday will be the big test against Jeff Withey and the Kansas Jayhawks.
1 Deshaun Thomas (6-7, Jr.) — We got to see every part of Deshaun’s game on Tuesday night, including his newfound ability to pass the basketball. The junior forward finished with a career-high four assists – yes, that is actually an accomplishment – but it wasn’t just the numbers that impressed. He threw a couple ridiculous passes to Amir Williams for easy dunks on plays where he could have shot the ball without much fuss from Matta or the fans. Last year’s team couldn’t afford to have Thomas jacking up shots because that meant less touches for Jared Sullinger inside. This year’s team has to live and die with whatever Thomas can give them. Even when he had missed nine in a row at one point in this game, there still seemed to a be feeling that he was their best option every trip up the floor. The thing about Deshaun is that he can heat up so quickly, and when he does, it’s hard to get him cooled off. How else do you explain a guy who missed nine-straight shots all of a sudden connecting on five in a row? Well, that’s Deshaun in a nutshell.
12 Sam Thompson (6-7, So.) — We didn’t get much of an encore from Thompson Tuesday night after his career-high 18 point performance against Long Beach State on Saturday. Thompson did have a fantastic tip dunk off a missed outside shot, and it just looks so effortless when he jumps. He leaps so high with such little warning that it almost like he’s bouncing off a trampoline. That won’t get him very far on Saturday against Kansas shot-blocker Jeff Withey. Thompson finished with only two points in 14 minutes Tuesday, but there area that has to be most disappointing right now is his rebounding. This is a 6-7 kid who jump out of the gym and he has a total of one rebound in his last two games. They will need him on the boards Saturday.
Photo by Jim Davidson
32 Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (6-4, Jr.) — We keep tabbing Deshaun as the only real scorer on the team who is ready for a major role this season – we could be saying that about LaQuinton Ross at some point – but let’s not sleep on Lenzelle Smith. If anyone is going to assume the role of No. 2 scorer on a nightly basis, it seems like Smith is probably the most natural fit. They would love for it to Craft or Scott, but Smith is a much better shooter right now and he’s better at getting to the basket. The only reason Ohio State had a one-point lead at halftime Tuesday was the fact Smith connected on four of his seven shots in the first half for 10 points. He finished with 14 points and has now scored double-figures in seven of the 10 games this season. He has scored 14 or more in three of the last four.
4 Aaron Craft (6-2, Jr.) — Craft may not look comfortable shooting the ball right now, but he got back to doing what Craft does on Tuesday. That means creating havoc and making life miserable on opposing point guards. Craft did have eight points, but he really stuffed the box score in other departments. The junior point guard grabbed five rebounds, dished out five assists and picked up three steals in the victory. Eventually, he should find his shot again. Until then, he will have to be a role player on offense, but he is still the top dog on defense every time this team takes the court.
First 3 Off the Bench
Photo by Jim Davidson
3 Shannon Scott (6-1, So.) — Of all the non-established guys on Ohio State’s roster, it seems like Scott is going to be the next one to make that jump to star status. Maybe he won’t be a superstar scorer for the Buckeyes this season, but Scott is becoming a dynamic playmaker at both ends of the court. So much so that it almost seems wrong to take the ball out of his hands, even when he’s on the court with Craft. Those two are developing some chemistry at the defensive end – Scott had two more steals on Tuesday – and they have now combine for 24 assists and just two turnovers in the last two games. Scott is quickly becoming one of the best in the country at creating offense off his defense, which is exactly where Matta believes this team has to find its identity this season. Look for Scott to get more and more minutes as he becomes more comfortable on the court.
23 Amir Williams (6-11, So.) — Talk about a player who looked completely lost in the first half and then suddenly found himself in the second. Williams was so much of a non-factor in the first half that Matta went to Trey McDonald when Ravenel picked up his second foul, but Amir found something in the second half. Instead of bobbling the ball or trying to put a fancy spin move on his defender, Amir caught the ball and went up strong for the dunk on two different passes from Thomas. He emphatically blocked a shot in the post from Winthrop forward Larry Brown and finished with seven points, three rebounds and two blocks in 15 minutes off the bench. They will need him to play like he did in the second half against Kansas. If he plays like first half Amir, he won’t be of any use to them Saturday.
10 LaQuinton Ross (6-8, So.) — It seemed fitting that Ross would snap out of his 1-for-11 skid from long range in a game where no one else seemed capable of making a big basket. It came on a deep three from well behind the arc, but that would be his only basket of the game. Ross finished the night 1-of-5 from the floor and never really seemed to find a rhythm when he was out there. Part of that is the fact he only played 16 minutes, mainly because Matta found a rotation that was working in the second half and he stuck with it. But it was also because Ross still doesn’t look completely comfortable in the flow of the offense. His talent is undeniable, and it’s easy to see how he might make a Deshaun-esque transformation between now and next year, but he’s got to come a long faster if they’re going to count on him in Big Ten play.
Emptying the Bench
55 Trey McDonald (6-8, So.) — There was a point near the end of the first half where McDonald finally took some legitimate minutes away from classmate Amir Williams. It came when Ravenel picked up his second foul and had to go to the bench. Instead of putting Williams back out there to finish out the half, Matta called for McDonald off the end of the bench. Maybe that’s what sparked Amir to play with more energy in the second half. They never had to go back to McDonald.
33 Amedeo Della Valle (6-5, Fr.) — We didn’t get to see any of the freshman bomber out of Italy on Tuesday night because the game was such a back and forth slugger. That’s not exactly surprising, mainly because Della Valle hasn’t played many minutes in a close game this season, but there were a few times against Winthrop where it felt like maybe they should send him out there and see if he can give them a boost. That obviously didn’t happen, and he likely won’t play against Kansas either.
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