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Last updated: 12/12/2013 2:36 AM
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First Thoughts from Ohio State's 86-48 Win Over Bryant
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State (9-0) got themselves an easy win over Bryant (6-5) on Wednesday night thanks to a halfcourt defense that had their hands in everything. When they weren't tipping passes, they were stealing them outright. The Buckeyes outscored Bryant 22-1 in points off of turnovers, and it could have been more if Ohio State was a touch better at the fast break.

The Buckeyes came away with 13 steals and 10 blocked shots, while turning the ball over just eight times. They destroyed Bryant's offensive efficiency, while maximizing their own. Bryant was never going to win this game, but the Buckeyes wouldn't even let them compete. This was the type of performance that Thad Matta was hoping for, and if you schedule weak non-conference opponents like Matta does, you better get exactly what you want out of your team each time out.

Getting Thinner? The BTN broadcast touched on whether or not Thad Matta would thin out his bench as Big Ten play arrives, and I'm not sure that he will. Now, I think the starting six will probably play a few more minutes, but I don't see Trey McDonald, Amadeo Della Valle and Marc Loving going stretches without playing in any games.

I think it's pretty clear that all three of them belong on the court. McDonald is Amir Williams' backup, and has done well in that regard. He will always be needed. Della Valle provides a shooter off the bench, and even though his shot isn't consistent yet, he still needs to be respected by the defense. Loving, meanwhile, has earned time with his play. Even if Matta didn't have a spot for him, he'd find one.

Speaking of Loving. I could talk about Marc Loving every single week because he shows so much of his abilities in his limited play. He can handle the ball, he can drive, he has vision, he can shoot, and he can rebound. He may not be a plus athlete, but there really isn't anything meaningful that he can't do on a basketball court. However, the most important skill he has right now – and I'm not even sure if it can be called a skill – is his confidence. A lot of players know what they can do in practice, or against high schoolers, but Loving has taken his confidence as a high school player and brought it with him to his first season as a college basketball player.

There haven't been a lot of freshmen who have come into Ohio State and been confident enough in their abilities to try as many things as Loving has, and the only one in recent memory who was ever 6-foot-7 while doing it was Evan Turner. Loving is an old school player who is fundamentally sound, which also means he has tricks – like his behind-the-back dribble in the paint. So far, those tricks are working. It's going to be an entertaining four years watching Loving play, though I said the same thing about Mike Conley and Jared Sullinger.

The Quiet Storm. “The Quiet Storm” used to be Buckeye tailback Raymont Harris' nickname – and probably still is, but I think it could also apply to Lenzelle Smith. Smith is the Buckeyes' leading scorer, and led the team once again with 19 points in this one. However, he's not really ever the player that you expect to “go off”. Sure, teams have to be wary of it, but I'm not sure how many enter a game with the mindset that they can't let Lenzelle Smith beat them.

Smith also added eight rebounds and three assists in just 22 minutes. He shot 6-9 from the field, and was the picture of efficiency. Thad Matta said at the beginning of the season that he didn't want an up-and-down Lenzelle Smith. He didn't want his 12 point-per-game average to be the product of 20 points one night and four the next. So far, Matta is getting what he wants, as Smith has scored in double figures in five-consecutive games. He has also shot 50% or better in each of those games.

Lenzelle Smith Jr.
Photo by Dan Harker
Lenzelle Smith Jr.

Always On The Move. I was impressed with the ball movement tonight. It was crisp and it was fast. Players would throw up a shot fake, take a dribble and look for a better shot. There was also some very nice interior passing. The Buckeyes had 16 assists on their 32 made field goals, which is a solid number. Time after time they found a better shot, and it resulted in 52.5% shooting from the field and 8-20 (40%) from three-point range.

What makes the perimeter passing so effective is that everybody can shoot, so it only takes one shot fake to get an entire defense over-rotating. The next thing they need to work on, however, is finishing in the paint on the drives following the shot fake. I loved seeing Sam Thompson attack the paint, but unless he's on top of the rim, he has struggled with his finishing.

Quick Thoughts. … I liked the way LaQuinton Ross tried to create shots for his teammates on the drive. He told me in the preseason that that was one of the things he wanted to work on this year, and early in the game it led to a three pointer for Aaron Craft. … It was a surprise when Bryant was able to make more than three passes in their halfcourt offense without turning it over. The Buckeye hands are just too quick, though I think the refs were more than lenient on Craft a time or two. … You can see the improved strength in Amir Williams just watching him gain position down low. In the past, he could be pushed out of the paint simply with the power of suggestion. He played well tonight, scoring 12 points with nine rebounds and a career-high six blocks. However, until he does it in the Big Ten, I'll be forced to continue harping on the fact that he's not yet doing it against the Big Ten. … Shannon Scott's scoring, and in particular his perimeter shot, have dipped of late. After starting the season 5-9 from three-point range in his first two games, he is 3-15 since. I do wonder if he will begin to push at some point, or will his overall confidence keep him from stressing? … It wouldn't be right to end this without mentioning the play and overall joyousness of Jake Lorbach tonight. The two-handed dunk, followed by a very confident turnaround jumper, and then another basket, was great to see. The reaction from the teammates is always the second-best part of watching a walk-on score. The best part is watching the walk-on try not to smile from ear to ear. In that regard, Lorbach was understandably lacking tonight.

Jake Lorbach
Photo by Dan Harker
Jake Lorbach


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