First Thoughts From Ohio State's 84-53 Win Over Nebraska
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was a slow start for the Buckeyes (15-0, 2-0), but they eventually picked it up and put it on the Huskers (8-6, 0-2) to the tune of a 31-point win. Noon starts have a way of taking a while for a team to wake up, and this one was no different. Once they were awake, however, Ohio State ran away with the game, defending like you would expect, but shooting better than expected from deep.
It was a very unselfish outing, as five Buckeyes scored in double figures. The fact that they scored 84 points while only getting three from Lenzelle Smith is a pretty good indicator of the effectiveness of the rest of the team. There will be games this year where as goes Smith's offense, so goes the Buckeyes' offense. That was not the case in this one, however, and I'm sure it was a welcome sight for Thad Matta.
May I Approach the Bench? Every year much is made of Thad Matta's abhorrence for going too deep into his lineup, but the Buckeyes are legitimately nine deep this year, and they exhibited that depth in this game. The Ohio State bench outscored the Nebraska bench 38-12, and for a first-time viewer, it would have been impossible to determine where the starters began and the backups ended.
As we've seen, it's always easier to employ the bench when Matta isn't too unsure about the outcome, but the experience players like Amadeo Della Valle and Trey McDonald get in these games will pay off in bigger games when they're suddenly relied upon.
Della Valle (game-high 15 points) is expected to just be a shooter, but he has been scrapping under the boards constantly this season, and his defense is improving. He had a nice drive in this game, and his effort is not that of a guy just floating out behind the three-point line looking for free shots. It was good to see his shot fall (5-5 from the field) so consistently, because he's earned it with how hard he has played this season.
McDonald, meanwhile, played 15 minutes, scored four points – including a thunderous dunk – and grabbed five rebounds. I'm always impressed by his athleticism and his decisiveness. He doesn't hesitate when he has the ball, which is a trait that many big men miss.
The Other Big Man. Amir Williams scored 10 points in 25 minutes, and has improved of late with the pick and roll. He's holding on to the ball a little better in that regard, and he's finishing better as well. I also liked the drop step that he is showing more of, and he's no longer tentative on offense. It may still take him a while to get the shot up, but that's just because his overall physical process is slow.
While those are positives, the big negative for me is the fact that he only had one rebound in his 25 minutes. For comparison's sake, McDonald and Marc Loving each grabbed five rebounds in 10 and eight fewer minutes, respectively. Heck, even Jake Lorbach grabbed a rebound in his one minute of play in this game.
Better Recognize. I realize that Ohio State generally wants their basketball players to be National Players of the Year in order to receive the recognition of a retired jersey, but when Aaron Craft's days are done, they will eventually have to do something to honor him. People talk about a statue for a college kid, but if there was ever a COLLEGE KID who has earned one, it might be him. Craft has done everything the right way, and if there is ever a standard to promote, it's his.
Four on the Floor. I'm really liking the way LaQuinton Ross is playing right now. The feel for his position is growing, and he's getting pretty deadly on the pick and roll, because he can shoot it from anywhere. Like everybody else on the team, he is letting the offense come to him, and when everybody does that, the offense will eventually find them.
Coming into this season the big question was who would replace Deshaun Thomas's scoring, and people pointed to Ross. He started very slowly this season, but has been a constant now. His slow start seems like a distant memory and I even found myself chuckling at the talk – my own included – that maybe it was time to look for somebody else at the power forward spot, because Ross wasn't getting it done. Instead, Thad Matta stuck with him, and it continues to pay off for all involved.
Quick Thoughts. … As long as Shannon Scott is putting up 13 points on better than 50% shooting, it's hard to envision a scenario where the Buckeyes won't be in a game until the very end. The more that he shows himself to be a shooter, the more the court opens up for everybody, including Scott himself. … Hey, we finally saw Sam Thompson finish a floater in the paint. Sure it was surrounded by other misses in the lane, but maybe we're approaching baby steps. As an aside, I wonder what Thompson's baby steps looked like. I bet he could clear a baby gate in a single bound. … The Buckeyes held Nebraska with one point over the final 5:29 of the game. That's impressive no matter who is playing. The defensive intensity didn't let up even as the bench was emptied. … Ohio State got beaten up pretty badly on the boards for the first 30 minutes of the game or so, but they finished well, and ended up out-rebounding the Huskers 33-32. … I'm trying to limit how much I talk about Marc Loving. It's not easy. Though I've been getting the sense that he's almost too confident in his game. I'm not sure if that can possibly be a bad thing as long as his teammates don't mind. I don't think Matta minds. I doubt that you mind.
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