First Thoughts From Ohio State's 65-50 Win Over Wyoming
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — People may want to stop clamoring for Thad Matta to provide Ohio State with a better non-conference schedule, because on Monday night against Wyoming, the Buckeyes got all they needed from the Cowboys.
As expected, Ohio State eventually pulled away, but it was never easy, and Wyoming gave the Buckeyes absolutely nothing. They hammered the Buckeyes in the paint, driving at will against the Ohio State guards, seemingly unworried about any help defense that may be waiting.
Things calmed down a bit in the second half thanks to Ohio State's defense, as Wyoming shot just 15.4% over the game's final 20 minutes. The Buckeyes didn't shoot much better, but they did what they needed to – which is about all you can ask in November.
Getting Centered. I'm pretty confident in saying that this was Amir Williams' best game of his career. He scored 12 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for his second double-double of the season, and looked good doing it. He had eight offensive rebounds and was finishing very well with the tip ins. He also had a nice half hook in the paint after gathering himself and going up with balance. All Buckeye fans can ask for from Williams is for him to make a positive impact for his team, and he did all of that and more against Wyoming. He has now scored in double figures in three of the Buckeyes' five games so far and is averaging 10 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He's also blocking 2.2 shots per game. Right now he is everything Ohio State fans could have hoped for, but didn't dare.
Where Are Thou Four? I found the situation at power forward very interesting in this game. LaQuinton Ross got the start per usual, and he again struggled with his shot. Marc Loving came in for him and played well in the first half, scoring six quick points. But then he was gone. Eventually, it was Sam Thompson who took over at the four in the second half, and I don't think it's a coincidence that that's when Ohio State's defense finally did its best work. Thompson blocked three shots and bothered a couple of others. It speaks to his versatility – and the Buckeyes' as well – that Thompson can enter the game in the first half for Aaron Craft, and then spend the game's final 15 minutes playing power forward. David Lighty and Jason Singleton could do the same, so it's not a bad path to follow.
Offensive Defense. Wyoming attacked the lane relentlessly in the first half and I was wondering how much of it had to do with the fact that the Buckeyes weren't sure what is and isn't a foul anymore. The easiest way to stop getting fouls called on you is to stop playing hard-nosed defense, or really any defense, and that's what it looked like in the first half. I wonder if this will continue, and tend to think it will, as this is what the powers that be had in mind for the betterment of the game. After all, once players are too worried to defend, the offense will take off. Of course, my theory may need some work when you consider that Wyoming still only scored 34 points in the first half.
Feeding the Hot Hand. With a team loaded with players who can show up or disappear on any given night, I think it's smart to feed the hot hand while the heat is on, and that's what the Buckeyes did with Lenzelle Smith tonight. Smith finished with a game-high 20 points on 6-12 shooting (5-8 from three), and he only took a couple of bad shots, which is sometimes half the battle. His three-point shots were in rhythm and came as a part of the offense. He hit some big shots, but to keep Thad Matta happy, Smith will have to do it again relatively quickly, because Matta wants him to be a consistent threat. We've all said that this team is at its best when Smith is hitting shots, and the Buckeyes are hoping that happens much more regularly than it did a year ago.
Quick Thoughts... When Marc Loving was in the game and playing well, I thought that LaQuinton Ross might want to step up his game or risk losing time to Loving. That's still on the table, but now so is the situation with Sam Thompson. Some teams will be better matchups than others, and Thompson might not always be a good idea against all teams at the four, but if Ross doesn't see the writing on the wall, he needs to look a little bit harder. Thad Matta can only give him so much time to get things figured out. … Shannon Scott, who is arguably the Buckeyes' best player, only played 26 minutes. I wonder how much of that was punishment by Matta for getting a technical foul. It's a whole lot easier to teach that lesson in November than it is in February. I'm guessing the lesson has been learned. … I wrote down in the first half that Aaron Craft's unwillingness to shoot the ball hurts this team, but then I watch him fearlessly drive to the basket in the second half and I wonder why that doesn't happen throughout the game. If it's good enough for the second half, why isn't it good enough for the first? I understand Craft wanting to get other players involved, but shouldn't that apply to himself as well? … This team has a bunch of guys who may only hit one shot in a game, and a bunch of guys who don't really care if they do. A coach can always work with that kind of unselfishness.
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