First Thoughts From Ohio State's 95-70 Win Over Iona in the NCAA Tournament
By Tony Gerdeman
My cousin Danny had this Incredible Hulk toy back in the early '80s. Basically, you put the Hulk in his plastic cage, and then you attached a plastic hose to the Hulk, and you squeezed a hand pump at the other end of the plastic hose so that the Hulk would bulk up and eventually become too big for his cage and burst out of it.
Tonight, the Buckeyes were the Hulk, and the cage was the Big Ten.
Everybody on the Ohio State team had fun tonight because they were playing a fun brand of basketball. It had to feel like pure oxygen after taking a jog in midday Beijing.
The Buckeyes were running and running and running, and it was good. This was the same team that five days earlier was in a no holds barred cage match against Wisconsin, and now here they were throwing alley oops like they were playing in somebody's driveway.
This was probably the most entertaining game Ohio State has played all year, and it showed what happens when a team thinks they can pressure and run on the Buckeyes. As it would turn out, the Buckeyes are pretty okay with that strategy.
Dunk It Again, Sam. Back in the day I once said that when Ted Ginn Jr. was running, it was symphonic. Tonight, Sam Thompson was a one-man orchestra.
The dunks were obviously emphatic and noteworthy, but overall he played a very complete game. Any time you can notch a career high in points (20) and rebounds (10) in the same night, people have to take note.
His penetration isn't quite there yet, but we already know that. The fact that he scored 20 points without a single three-pointer tells me that he is finding other ways to score in abundance.
Thompson has so much potential, it's always good to see it being put to use.
Nice Selection. I thought the Buckeyes did a tremendous job of taking quality shots while the game was still competitive. There were never any forces by Lenzelle Smith, or one-on-three foul-searching heaves from Deshaun Thomas.
Yes, Iona's style lent itself to the Buckeyes finding quality shots, but that doesn't always mean ill-advised shots go away. The Ohio State offense was generally under control, even when they were running at full speed.
The Gaels can't play defense, and the Buckeyes will eventually run into teams who can. But when they do, they'll look back on this game and remember the success that they had when they shared the ball and looked for eachother.
Deshaun Is On. I wrote earlier in the week that since the NCAA Tournament is starting, maybe Deshaun Thomas will regain the comfort level that he had during last year's Tournament. Well, 24 points on 12 shots later, and it looks like he's in a big ol' beanbag chair.
Thomas finished 8-12 from the field and 3-3 from three-point range. Every shot was a quality look. His ability to score in the middle of the zone really took a lot of steam out of Iona's defense.
Doing the Dishing. Shannon Scott tied a career-high with 10 assists, and he did it in just 25 minutes. There's little doubt that if the Buckeyes were able to play in a league that allowed running, he would lead the nation in assists, even as the sixth man.
Each Iona shot attempt would turn into a potential Shannon Scott-led fastbreak, and a possible Sam Thompson dunk. They have great timing, though Scott's passes can sometimes be "just a bit outside".
You know what else? Scott scored seven points, had seven rebounds, and shot 3-6 from the field. It was a career night, and an indicator of things to come should other teams think they can take advantage of a plodding Big Ten team.
That's a No No, Mo Mo. Lenzelle Smith, Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott harassed Mo Mo Jones so completely that even the Westboro Baptist Church felt bad for him.
Together, they held him to just nine points, which was 14 under his average. He went 3-14 from the field, including 1-8 from three-point range. He recorded no assists and four turnovers.
The check that his mouth wrote bounced so high that Sam Thompson ended up dunking it.
Quick Thoughts. I liked that Thad Matta let the Buckeyes run and take quick shots. We already know they can play the slow-down styles of basketball. We needed to see how well they could handle some pressure, and they handled it just fine. ... At one point in the second half, LaQuinton Ross grabbed a rebound and led a fastbreak that ended with a Deshaun Thomas layup. That was a 6'8" guy leading a break dishing to a 6'7" guy. They were the only two players to touch the ball. Not many teams can do that. ... In the first half, with the Buckeyes up by 17 points or so with seven minutes to play, I tweeted the they still had a lull in them in the first half. Turns out, they lulled for about the next six minutes. But there was absolutely no lull in the second half. They came out and found three extra gears, running Iona into the ground. ... The Ohio State defense was once again a thing of beauty to behold. Picking up eight steals and forcing 19 turnovers, the Buckeyes were after Iona constantly, never letting them get comfortable. ... Who would have ever thought that Aaron Craft playing defense would be as entertaining as Sam Thompson on offense. ... I've been saying for a while now that the Buckeyes only need to shoot well for six games in order to win a National Championship. That's one.
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