COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was never a doubt.
First Thoughts From Ohio State's 64-46 Win Over Minnesota
By Tony Gerdeman\
Once the Buckeyes secured a 15-point lead late in the second half, there was never a doubt that they were going to hold on.
This was one of the more bizarre games we've seen this year, if not the most bizarre. It's not every night that you get to see a team's floor and ceiling all in the same game.
As I tweeted shortly after this one ended, if you're going to play your worst half of basketball of the year, it's always best to answer it with the best half of basketball of the year, and that's what Ohio State did in this one.
The first half of basketball could probably be called "post-apocalyptic". This is what basketball will look like when the earth gets cooked by the sun and players dress like they did in 'Mad Max'. After all, playing basketball in shoulder pads with spikes in them while wearing a hockey mask is not conducive to making jumpers.
The second half, meanwhile, showed what this team is capable of. The scary part for Thad Matta, however, is that the first half showed their capabilities just as well.
I don't think Matta was caught off guard by his team's first half performance. He called a timeout early in the game, which is something that he almost never does. He probably saw something early on, and it may have been something that he saw hours before the game ever tipped.
It has to be incredibly frustrating for him to have such insight into this team, and still have no idea what he is going to get from night to night.
That Second Half, Though? The second 20 minutes of this game was a thing of beauty for the Buckeyes and their fans. OSU doesn't get out and run as much as they probably should with two point guards, but they pushed it as much as they could in the second half in order to avoid Minnesota's zone defense.
While they still only shot 1-7 from three-point range in the second half, they were 16-23 from two-point range, and most of those points came in the paint. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I'm not sure I would have believed that this team was capable of scoring 46 points in one half while only hitting one three-point shot.
Ready For Takeoff? Sam Thompson scored a season-high 19 points against the Gophers, and it was his second-consecutive impressive performance. Granted, the last time out he only scored 11 points, but it was the way he scored those 11 points that was impressive.
Thompson has now scored 30 points in his last two games, after scoring just 31 points in the seven games prior to his recent outburst.
I really believe that if the Buckeyes are going to get the most out of Thompson, then it will be up to his teammates to basically force his involvement. Whether that means more alley oops, or some kickouts for threes, or Thad Matta calling more plays for him (which he should).
Thompson still has a passive tendency, which is why I think the Buckeyes would do well to force his hand a bit more. This is a team that lacks scoring, but they could get some from Thompson if they simply asked more of him.
Strong Defensive Effort. Minnesota was held to 35.4% shooting on the night, and just 29.2% in the second half. Some of that was poor shooting, but the rest of it was solid defense.
Amir Williams blocked four shots and altered a few others. The Hollins brothers were pretty well neutralized by the Ohio State guards. Overall, nothing came easily for the Gophers, and after watching the Buckeyes score just 18 points in the first half, they went out and did the same in the second half.
The Buckeyes finished with seven steals in the second half, so not only were they forcing tough shots, but they weren't even allowing shots at times. Their defense and rebounding sparked their running game, and it finally allowed their entire game to mesh perfectly.
It may not happen again this season, but at least you got to see it happen once this year.
Quick Thoughts. ... The first half was not only the worst half of basketball for the Buckeyes this year, but it was also the worst half of basketball for Aaron Craft. He has no confidence in his jumper, and too often just drove the ball without a plan of what he would do once he got to a defender. He responded well in the second half, but that's not a first half that a great player should have. ... For the second night in a row, LaQuinton Ross showed a lot of heart and emotion, and this time he didn't even get ejected for it. He only scored nine points, but they were critical, as were his rebounds down low. ... Lenzelle Smith and Shannon Scott combined for a quiet 23 points, joining Sam Thompson as the only three Buckeyes to end up in double figures. I wonder how many times Scott and Thompson have both scored in double figures in the same game this year. ... Okay, I went and did the research. This was the third time that Scott and Thompson both scored in double figures, but it was the first time since the Marquette game, which was the third game of the season. They also did it in the season opener against Morgan State.
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