First Thoughts From OSU's 71-50 Win Over Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament
By Tony Gerdeman
Much like the Ohio State fanbase, the Ohio State basketball team was already looking ahead to Saturday's game. They knew Nebraska couldn't stay with them, but early on they forgot that they were actually supposed to have something to do with that.
Thad Matta called a timeout at the 16:38 mark with the Buckeyes trailing 9-4. He benched Deshaun Thomas, giving him two earfuls about his defense during the timeout.
Matta could be heard yelling at his team, asking them if they thought this game was going to be easy. The early timeout, and the purpling of his face, let his team know that this was as an actual game with actual consequences.
The Buckeyes responded, as most expected they would. Eventually, that much of a talent gap wins out as long as the effort of the two teams are similar. But that effort was anything but similar over the first four minutes.
Matta knows that in the next round, a poor start like that can fuel an opponent for an entire half. By nipping it early on Friday, he'll be hoping to avoid it entirely on Saturday.
Assuming Michigan State gets this win over Iowa right now, I'm guessing Matta won't have to worry about his team looking ahead.
Sam He Is. I hope now you see why I keep saying that Sam Thompson needs to shoot more. He finished 8-9 from the field and scored a career-high 19 points. He hit three of his four three-point attempts and stepped right into them. He was one of the best players on the court.
What I liked best, other than the fact that he kept shooting, was that he was also attacking the basket. Granted, it was usually without the ball, but at least he was active and making something happen.
I'm not sure if I mentioned it here after the last game, but I tweeted that you can see flashes of what Thompson is going to become, and tonight was like a sneak preview.
Now, he wasn't perfect. He only shot one free throw, and he didn't have any rebounds, but when that jumper is falling, you can forgive an awful lot.
Just wait until he starts hitting that baseline floater with some consistency.
The Initiator. Lately there's been a sense of "You just wait until Shannon Scott gets in the game!" Like a mother threatening an unruly child about what was going to happen when the father came home.
The Buckeyes can go through some motions early on, but once Scott gets in the game, everybody shapes up. Tonight was no different. Trailing 14-6 when he came in, the Buckeyes went on a 12-1 run with Scott in the lineup. Ohio State would never trail again.
The defensive intensity ramps up. The guys look to run more. Everybody is simply more focused. He's like Five-Hour Energy in white shorts.
He was 3-3 from the field, and when he's hitting that pull-up jumper, he's an entirely different offensive player. He's not able to finish in traffic the way that Aaron Craft can, but if he's going to hit pull-up jumpers, the layups can wait until next year.
The jump shot is coming, but the ability to finish can't be forgotten. Once he has that, look out. Shannon Scott will be the best point guard in the Big Ten in two years, and maybe even sooner than that.
Sharing is Caring. The Buckeyes finished with 20 assists on 26 field goals. You're not going to do much better than that.
Aaron Craft had eight assists in just 30 minutes, and even though he wasn't driving the lane, he was moving the ball very well. He wasn't the only one, however.
Even LaQuinton Ross had a couple of assists. He passed up some open shots so his teammates could have even better looks. There was never a selfish moment in this game, even when Ross was hitting three consecutive three-pointers.
Filing an Extension. Everybody knows that the Buckeyes can play some tremendous face-to-face defense, but that defense also extends well-past the three-point line.
The Huskers shot 3-19 from three-point range against the Buckeyes, and it was because they never had much room to shoot. Nebraska made two of their first three from long range, but once Ohio State clamped down, they finished one for their last 16.
A Perfect Opener. While Michigan State is trailing by nine points and fighting for their lives as I write this, the Buckeyes could not have asked for a better outcome in their first game.
Sure, winning is nice, but they won without anybody playing more than Deshaun Thomas's 32 minutes. Aaron Craft played 30 minutes, Lenzelle Smith tallied 25 and Sam Thompson played 28. They should all be as rested as possible for tomorrow's quick turnaround.
Their opponent, meanwhile, will have had quite the battle just to reach this point.
Quick Thoughts. You could tell that LaQuinton Ross was going to hit that third three-pointer when he was still well on Nebraska's side of the court. He ran hard for that wing jumper. ... Even before the Buckeyes were running away with it, Aaron Craft was getting some rest on the bench. With three games in three days (ideally), Matta has to plan ahead and make sure his players don't start crapping out at about 5:00 pm on Sunday afternoon. ... I'm just going to choose not to say anything about Ross's dribbling, or the overall game of Amir Williams. We're all thinking the same thing anyway. ... You know how I know that Sam Thompson hasn't taken that next step yet? Because he's more likely to score two points on Saturday than 19 again.