COLUMBUS, Ohio — Well, if a team is going to be criticized throughout portions of the season for its lack of emotion, we probably shouldn't also be critical when that emotion boils over into a bit of a scrum.
First Thoughts From Ohio State's "Hard-Fought" 76-60 Win Over Northwestern
By Tony Gerdeman
LaQuinton Ross, who was tossed for pushing two Wildcats players, has been guilty of going through the motions at times this season, but tonight was not one of those times. That is not to say that what he did was excusable, because it wasn't. It was foolish. I'd call it dumb, but people get offended by such bluntness, so I'll just stick with foolish because people haven't taken that word away from me yet.
The good news is that Ross isn't really one of the emotional leaders on the team, so this outburst isn't indicative of poor leadership or anything like that, it's just indicative of a player who was tired of what was going on.
I do think pushing a player in the back says something about a person, but only in that fraction of second when the push occurs. We've all had our moments when we've done something we immediately regretted, and I'm sure that's the case with Ross and his pushes.
I fully expect him to bounce back, and pick up right where his production left off. He led the team with 16 points, including a stretch of seven in a row that allowed the Buckeyes to change the game.
Ross may come back more emotional than he was when he left, but you can bet that he'll have those emotions under better watch. Emotion isn't a bad thing, in fact it's a necessity. Indifference is a team's real killer, and the Buckeyes could never be considered indifferent in this one.
Sam Flashing. The Sam Thompson that played in this game is the Sam Thompson that we've all seen when we'd think of what he could become. Drifting off and day dreaming, we picture Thompson as a guy who drills threes with ease, and curls around screens for easy 15-footers.
Tonight, that's who Sam Thompson was, and it was fun to watch. Yes, he's also the best leaper the Buckeyes have seen since...ever? But he showed tonight that that's just one part of his game. He scored 11 points on five shots, and showed the confidence of a player who knows he is clicking.
For the Buckeyes to finish well, a confident and productive Thompson would provide another offensive threat for the opposition to defend, and right now, Ohio State needs all of those that they can get.
The Perfect Complement. Lenzelle Smith's offense right now is serving this team perfectly. As long as there are other teammates scoring, then Smith's offense is a deadly bonus. While he is capable of leading the team in scoring on any given night, when it's somebody else doing it, then his 10-14 points are even more effective.
The trouble for this team is always going to be offensive consistency, and as long as the team knows they're going to get something from Smith, that takes pressure off of his teammates and allows them to play a little looser.
Smith's random 20-point game will always be welcome, but as Thad Matta said before the season started, a consistent Lenzelle Smith is much more desirable than one who has good nights and bad nights. Right now, Smith is giving his team exactly what they need, and those needs are always changing.
His versatility is a strength for this team, as there aren't many guards in the Big Ten who are going to go out and grab 10 rebounds like Smith did in this game. Many times he finds a way to do just what his team is looking for, and that's when the Buckeyes are at their best.
The Ongoing Drama at Center. Amir Williams opened the game very well. He hit a hook shot on the game's first possession, and then on the very next OSU possession, he beat everybody else down court on a fast break. At the time, I jotted down that it seemed as if the extra effort was a response to the lack of minutes that he had received in his last game.
That early energy and effort quickly faded, and by the end of the first half, Trey McDonald had played 11 minutes at center and Williams had played just nine. Williams played just seven more minutes in the second half. He scored six points, with two coming on the game's first basket, and the other four at the free throw line following a missed punch.
McDonald played 18 minutes while Williams played just 16. This is the second game in a row where Williams has seen his minutes cut drastically. He responded well early, but that was about it. It's clear that Thad Matta is frustrated, and now he's finally starting to look for answers.
Quick Thoughts. ... You know you don't see made jumpers around screens very often when you are amazed by them when it happens. It's such a basic play, and yet so difficult for this team to execute. Sam Thompson's little jumper curling around a screen should be attempted at least four times per game. Thompson can defer too much at times, and calling plays for him would be one way to stop that from happening. ... The on-ball defense was pretty good for the Buckeyes tonight. They held Northwestern to 39.1% shooting in the second half. Even though Drew Crawford was deadly, there were still hands in his face when he was going off. The 10 steals for the Buckeyes were also indicative of that defense. ... That being said, the interior defense is lacking when compared to the perimeter defense. ... I'm still trying to figure out the most impressive part of the evening for the Buckeyes. Was it the 46% shooting, the 7-16 (44%) shooting from three-point land, or the 23-29 (79%) shooting from the free throw line. The sad thing is that each of those numbers is nothing special. ... Shannon Scott shooting the ball with such confidence is always a good thing to see. I cannot say the same thing for Aaron Craft, however. ... It was also good to see this team score as easily and consistently as they did. This will be a game that the team can draw on again. This was a confidence builder for Ohio State's scorers, and I'm guessing that will be Thad Matta's lasting thought about this game, and not a little bit of pushing and shoving.
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