First Thoughts

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Established October 31, 1996
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Last updated: 02/08/2014 9:10 PM
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Men's Basketball
First Thoughts From Ohio State's 67-49 Win Over Purdue
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — This was pretty much how a home win against an average conference opponent should go during February. The Buckeyes kept Purdue at a distance, even when the Boilers would close it to just four points in the second half. Eventually, talent and momentum took over and Ohio State made the distance between the two teams too great for Purdue to overcome.

The Buckeyes went scoreless for the first four minutes of this game, but their final 36 minutes was some of their best offensive basketball in a while. Players were catching and shooting quickly and productively.

All six of Ohio State's starters took at least seven field goal attempts, which is what you always want to see. The Buckeyes' two best scorers are LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith, and when they are both scoring, OSU will be tough to beat. Tonight, however, it wasn't just those two.

While Ross and Smith were the only two in double figures, Sam Thompson (8 points), Amir Williams (9 points), Shannon Scott (9 points) and Aaron Craft (7 points) were all productive. When Ohio State can avoid any one of their top six players having one of those frustratingly-typical two or four-point performances, they are always going to be able to compete.

Front and Center. When Ohio State was going through that first four minutes of inability tonight, it was Amir Williams' performance on offense and defense that got the Buckeyes out of the rut and woke them up. 

He was strong around the basket and stout on the defensive end. Soon after, so was the rest of the team. Even though he was in foul trouble and played just eight minutes in the first half, he was able to score four points, grab four rebounds and block three shots in those eight minutes.

The most positive aspect of his performance for me, however, was the fact that he took seven shots in his 26 minutes. He wasn't passive, which means that he knows that he can score. Even though he was just 3-7 from the field, the number of attempts is indicative of his current mindset and confidence right now. 

Scott the Scorer. When I had been calling for Thad Matta to get away from his lineup with two point guards it was because Shannon Scott simply refused to be a scoring threat. With Aaron Craft's own abhorrence for scoring, there just wasn't enough room for them both to be so stubborn.

Since Scott has been coming off of the bench, however, he is looking for his shot more than ever. The ironic part of this, of course, is that if he would have just played like this the entire time, there'd be no need to bring him off the bench.

I realize that coming off of the bench was Scott's call, but he had to see the issues as well. He now appears set on fixing those issues. He has scored a total 29 points in his last three games after scoring just 28 points in the six games before that.

Living Without Fear. It's so refreshing to watch this team when they don't hesitate to shoot the ball. Tonight, even when they were missing transition threes, it was nice to see a confident team on the court.

Shannon Scott had consecutive possessions where he hit a three with a hand in his face, and then came down and hit a pull-up jumper. Both times there was no hesitation. He wasn't looking for help. He was completely confident. It actually reminded me more of Scoonie Penn than Shannon Scott.

Sam Thompson had a couple of moments like that in this game as well. Even his turnaround jumper from the top of the key displayed his lack of worry. Heck, even Marc Loving, who hasn't hit a shot since Big Nut was just Medium Nut, took a three in transition. He missed it, obviously.

The point being that this team is playing much looser than it has in the past, and I'm wondering if Thad Matta has told them to chill out a bit and just play basketball. Shooting is the most natural thing in the world for a basketball player, and they are all basketball players, so stop making this more difficult than it needs to be.

Quick Thoughts. ... I love watching when Aaron Craft gets matched up on the opposing team's center on a switch. Tonight that happened against A.J. Hammons and Craft rooted himself in like he was settling in for a 12-hour marathon of Breaking Bad. ... The Buckeyes turned the ball over just seven times, and LaQuinton Ross and Amir Williams combined for just one turnover. I bet Ohio State's record is pretty good when those two combine for one turnover. Assuming it has ever happened before, of course. ... I felt bad for Amadeo Della Valle tonight. His dad was in attendance and only got to watch him play for eight minutes. Though, to be fair to Thad Matta, his players can dictate their own playing time with their performance, and Della Valle just didn't do that tonight. Or, actually, he did. ... Lenzelle Smith has scored in double figures in five of his last six games. He might be picking things back up at the exact right time. ... I feel like Sam Thompson could attack the baseline more, which would result in either massive tomahawk dunks or two foul shots. ... I'm still confused at how a team can play so well on offense for long stretches of time, yet open the first four-plus minutes without a single point.

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