First Thoughts From the Buckeyes' 65-55 Win Over Winthrop
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Winthrop woke up this morning and looked at their calendar, I'm assuming it read "March", because they played like they were trying to keep their season alive.
When Ohio State woke up this morning, they looked at their calendar and said, "Hey, four more days til Kansas!", and then hit the snooze on their alarm clock.
The Buckeyes played well enough to win, and that seemed to be the extent of their interest. At times, it was also the extent of their effort. There were late close outs on Winthrop threes, quick shots on offense, and just not the collective team effort that would have been needed to win this game in a rout.
I don't put too much stock into a game like this, however, because December isn't really where college basketball seasons live or die. Heck, even if Ohio State had lost this game, it would have been completely erased with a win over the Jayhawks.
This game was merely a means to an end. We will learn infinitely more about the Buckeyes following Saturday's game than following this one. A hard-fought win over Winthrop tells us more about Winthrop than it does the Buckeyes.
Don't Get Shy. Deshaun Thomas started the game quickly, going 2-2 from the field. Then he missed his next nine shots. Never during that span of sputter did I think that he should stop shooting.
In fact, I don't think I'll be calling for him to stop shooting all season long. He isn't the same player that he once was. He doesn't really force shots. An open look is a good shot for him, almost regardless of the situation, because we know that he can make any shot that he takes.
If you are going to ask him to stop shooting, then you are also asking the Ohio State offense to be something that it is not. Thomas scored 21 points tonight on 21 shots. The other four starters scored 31 points on 22 shots. This offense needs him to score, and to score unapologetically.
However, I believe that he would be a 20-point scorer even without the ability to shoot the three. I don't think it would be bad for him to try to score more in the post, or get the ball on the elbow and create. Yes, he can catch and shoot from deep, but when you're having a 3-10 night from the perimeter, it's okay to look for better shots.
Soldiers of Fortune. In 2012, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade to the Columbus underground.
Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem...if no one else can help...and if you can find them...maybe you can hire...The A-Team.
That's the type of vibe I get from watching Shannon Scott and Aaron Craft on the court together defensively. No 40-foot pass by some mysterious oppressive force is safe. No length of the court dribble by a deviant land baron will go uncontested.
They will stand up to tyranny in defense of the People.
Also, it's impossible to not envision them at halftime building some type of reinforced battle vehicle that shoots 2 x 4's out of a cannon somehow.
We'll see how things go for them on Saturday, however. Scott played 26 minutes in this game. Will he see similar minutes against Kansas?
The Jayhawks have some big guards, so this could be their toughest battle yet. Thad Matta loves it when a plan comes together, so you know he'll come up with something.
The Benefits of Fits. I believe that struggling in a game like this does more good for the Buckeyes than a 40-point win would have. They were stressed in this game, and they responded. More importantly, Deshaun Thomas responded.
When Ohio State needed offense in the second half, Thomas hit a 5-5 stretch and built the lead that the Buckeyes would never relinquish. Basically, Thomas' quick outburst let Ohio State get back to coasting.
The Buckeyes will be stressed against Kansas as well, but at least it won't be an unfamiliar situation. They know that simply playing on the Schottenstein Center floor doesn't equal a win, and there will be no room for coasting.
Again the Wallflower. Sam Thompson scored two points in this game, three days after scoring 18 against UNC Asheville. He only played 14 minutes, only taking three shots, and LaQuinton Ross and Amir Williams both played more minutes than he did.
I like having Thompson out on the court, but the Buckeyes can only have three guards out there at a time, and two of them are generally going to be Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith. With the way that Shannon Scott is playing this year, minutes might continue to be a little more scarce as the season goes on.
Standard Craft. Aaron Craft scored eight points, he had five rebounds, five assists, three steals and one turnover. If the Buckeyes can get that from him against Kansas, they probably can't ask for more.
If they get more than that from him, then that will be a plus. I don't see him being able to score via the drive, so unless he's hitting jumpers, finding more than eight or 10 points on Saturday will be difficult for him.
That won't necessarily be a problem as long as Deshaun Thomas and Lenzelle Smith are scoring. If they aren't, then somebody is going to have to.
One of the biggest problems for this team right now is that there are a number of players who can score 15 points on any given night, but you just never know which nights that's going to happen.
And there's always a chance that all but one of them can have an off night in the same game.
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