Buckeyes Blow By Bulldogs
By Brandon Castel
The Buckeyes won’t know exactly how much they’ve improved from their loss at Duke until next Saturday. That’s when they face No. 9 Kansas in Columbus, but Thad Matta’s team continues to look impressive in the meantime.
Three days after scorching Savannah State by 40, the Buckeyes (8-1) rolled over visiting UNC Asheville (3-7) on Saturday by a score of 90-72 at Value City Arena. Four Buckeyes scored in double-figures – including sophomore Sam Thompson with a career-high 18 points – and Ohio State assisted on 25 of 36 made baskets for another easy non-conference victory.
“We wanted to score in transition more to have a greater push in the game,” Matta said.
“I think the spacing is getting better with our team, and we're getting the ball to the open man a lot better.”
Matta’s team did have to overcome an unconscious shooting performance from sophomore Keith Hornsby. The Williamsburg, Va. product could not miss in the first half. He went 7-of-8 from the floor with four three-pointers to lead the Bulldogs with 18 first-half points.
Ohio State got 12 first-half points from senior Evan Ravenel, along with 11 from Lenzelle Smith, Jr. and 10 from Deshaun Thomas, as the Buckeyes took a 50-35 lead into the locker rooms.
“I’m glad my teammates got me involved earlier,” said Ravenel, who will receive his degree from Ohio State on Sunday.
“These last few games I have felt a lot more comfortable making plays and the coaches putting the ball in my hands more. I am getting better at making open shots.”
The two teams actually finished even on the boards, despite the fact Ohio State got 17 points and 10 rebounds from Deshaun Thomas, who had his second double-double of the season.
But the story for Ohio State was Shannon Scott and the transition offense. The Buckeyes’ backup point guard came roaring off the bench with nine assists and six steals in just 21 minutes. He also added seven points as he and Craft combined for 17 assists and just one turnover against the Bulldogs.
“That’s something we want with those two guys on the floor, as well as that 17 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio today,” Matta said.
“It’s the time of year where the thing we challenged our basketball team is to continue to get better every day. Hopefully we took a step in that direction today.”
A number of those assists went to Thompson, who went up to the rafters for a few of his Sportscenter highlights in transition. Thompson was 5-7 from the floor and 7-8 from the free throw line, but Ohio State really put this game away on the defensive end of the floor.
The Buckeyes scored 25 points off 17 Asheville turnovers and held Bulldogs not named Hornsby to just 34 percent shooting. They limited Hornsby’s effectiveness in the second half, often putting Craft out there to defend him at the three-point line.
“He is a great player and makes his shots,” Lenzelle Smith said.
“In the second half we put more defenders on him so he couldn’t score 18 points like he did in the first half.”
Hornsby still made two of his three shots from long distance in the second half, but he airballed the third one, which seemed to please the crowd at Value City Arena. He finished the game 9-12 shooting for a game-high 26 points, but his teammates were a combined 0-for-12 from behind the arc.
“The part I was most disappointed in was that we didn’t get back on defense,” said UNC Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach.
“We also didn’t penetrate into the zone. We also didn’t do our job in man-to-man defense. Ohio State is a very good team but they should not be able to do that against us. I was disappointed in the way we played overall, but there were some bright points.”
The Buckeyes have only one more game on Tuesday against Winthrop (7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network) before Kansas comes to town next Saturday at 4 p.m. That game, a rematch of Ohio State’s loss to the Jayhawks in the Final Four, will be shown nationally on CBS.
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