Buckeyes Cruise Past Raiders in Sluggish Opener

By Chris Lauderback on November 12, 2011 at 1:12a
Lenzelle Smith has been a pleasant surprise early

It wasn't pretty thanks to 14 Buckeye turnovers, 23 by Wright State and 45 combined fouls whistled by the always awful Mike Sanzere and crew but Ohio State got 19 points and nine boards from Jared Sullinger, 13 points from William Buford and 10 from Aaron Craft as the Buckeyes outlasted the Raiders 73-42 tonight in the season opener tonight in the Schott.  

The tempo was stuck in the mud throughout but particularly early as the zebras sought the cameras dialing up 16 fouls in the first 13 minutes of a non-conference November mismatch. 

To their credit, Wright State took advantage of the snails pace and undisciplined play from the Buckeyes as they trailed just 19-14 with 8:20 left in the first half. 

Busting out of their doldrums following a tongue lashing from Matta, the Buckeyes closed the half on a 15-6 run highlighted by a Lenzelle Smith triple, an alley oop to JD Weatherspoon and a Sullinger layup to take a 34-20 lead at the break. 

The ridiculously officiated first half saw the Buckeyes drain 16 of 21 free throws (76%) while shooting just 8/20 from the floor (40%). Meanwhile the Raiders hit just 7/17 shots (41%) but outrebounded the Buckeyes 14-12 and hit 4/7 from deep to remain within pseudo striking distance. 

After a gut check at the half, Ohio State stormed out of the locker room scoring the first 10 points of the 2nd half stretching the lead to 44-20 with roughly 15 minutes to play. 

Despite a rough first half riddled with poor shot selection (1/4) and decision making, Buford fueled the run hitting a leaner to start it before back to back baskets to finish it via a nifty scoop in the lane followed by a patented pull up jumper in traffic. Sully contributed a putback jam during the decisive blitz. 

The game was never close from there as Thad substituted freely. 

For the game, the Buckeyes shot just 44% from the floor and 46% from deep (5/14). They also struggled at the line despite a hefty dose of opportunites hitting just 26/38 (68%) though Sully (10/12) and Craft (7/8) combined to drain 17/20. Ohio State did manage to own the glass in the 2nd half resulting in a 33-24 edge on the night. 

Through the small sample size of two games (one exhibition), there are more than a few storylines emerging.

First, Lenzelle Smith looks damn good. Focused on being a defensive stopper, he recorded seven boards and two steals in 20 minutes. Clearly, he knows Matta is looking for a lean, versatile defender to complement Craft's stifling on-ball defense out top and so far Thad has found his man. Smith is also playing a controlled offense to dat and hit 3/6 including 2/3 from distance to add eight points in 20 minutes of well rounded effort. 

Second, Deshaun Thomas looks to be struggling a bit with his evolution into a multi-dimensional player. He was awful early before picking it up late. In total he scored nine points on 3/7 shooting with five boards but he turned it over four times and got beat defensively on a few occasions of lackluster effort. I have full confidence he'll continue to evolve but so far he looks like he's still finding his way as the starter at the wing-slanted four spot. 

Third, I get that Matta is trying to help Sully's NBA stock by allowing him to roam away from the basket, face up and either shoot or look for open cutters but I can't help but feel this strategy might not be the best thing for Ohio State in 2011-12. With all the talent on the perimeter, Sully is so much more needed, and valuable, on the low block than he is wandering outside. My opinion might change if Amir Williams turns into a dependable big man or Evan Ravenel proves he can effectively bang down low once conference play begins but for now, I struggle with seeing Sully at the top of the key when the roster is loaded with guys more suited to face the basket from 17+ feet but deficient in guys who can rebound and score in the paint. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not hating on the idea (yet), I'm just saying we need to keep perspective on how OSU is best suited to win not on how Sully is best suited to improve his draft stock. 

The key to Matta being able to keep allowing Sully to roam is Ravenel. I've seen flashes in the short sample size to see a poor man's Othello Hunter, I just need to see more. This is especially true if Thomas doesn't prove capable of eating glass against the big boys on the schedule in games played in the halfcourt. So, the jury's still out but I think it's definitely something to keep an eye on. 

Scanning more of the reserves, I thought Shannon Scott looked a little more comfortable but still not as comfortable as I expected. I'm anxious to see how he fares Tuesday against the Gators. He's got talent but he seems like a freshman QB in that the game looks to be going a little too fast for him so far. He'll get there, I'm just waiting for the bulb to go off. 

Jordan Sibert was the seventh man tonight but didn't show much other than rushed shots off the pass after looking really good against Walsh. Bottom line offensively, he's probably going to be a streak shooter so Buckeye fans will have to get used to it. He's certainly capable of filling it but considering he's not looking to drive much, prepare yourself for feast or famine on most nights. Thad clearly has plans for him to play situationally so it's up to Sibert to capitalize. 

Sam Thompson wasn't as electric tonight but I was glad to see him get so much time (14 min). Thad appears to know what he has in 'Spoon so he's smartly seeing if Thompson could play his way onto the court as a 9th man. The way it looks, you've got your starters (Sully, Thomas, Smith, WB, Craft) then Ravenel as the first big man off the pine and Sibert as the first guard. Shannon Scott is going to get every opportunity as the 8th man leaving Thompson starving for perimeter minutes and Williams looking for the same as he backs up bigs Sully, Thomas and Ravenel. Thad won't go deeper than than eight real games unless he's forced to so Spoon and Thompson need to dazzle if they want t see any action when it counts. 

Speaking of when it counts, the Buckeyes welcome the 8th ranked Florida Gators to the Schott on Tuesday night for an early litmus test. ESPN has the tip at 8pm. 



Comments Show All Comments

yrro's picture

What was so amazing about last year's team was that they clicked right from the beginning. They were playing as a complete team in the first games of the season. With the youth this year, we have as high of a ceiling, but I don't expect the starting point to be quite as sky high.

RBuck's picture

I was thinking the same thing about Sully being at the top of the key. This experiment was OK for this game but I think it will have to end against quality opponents.

Long live the southend.

Buckeye06's picture

Watched the game last night and came away kind of blah; team is young and it shows, but uber talented. 

When we get into conference play, can we count on one guy over 6'7'' to crash the boards on our starting group?  Even before that, can we do that against Duke and Kansas (UF is pretty small overall I think since they have a ton of guard talent i believe)? 

I think the starting lineup later in the season needs to include more size in the front if those guys can bang and play effectively.  I know CBB you can do more 3 guard lineups with 2 forwards but what do other people think?

gravey's picture

This team looks young.  Sully and Craft never looked young last season, which I think spoiled us a bit.  No grizzled veterans this seaons, so we can expect inconsistency and sloppy play; especially if the opposition plays a hacking style to keep us out of any kind of rhythm.  Still, it was a lot of fun to see the bench players.  I"m curious to see who gets PT during the season.


Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Your assesments are dead on. Tank struggled with pretty much everything but I am no where close to giving up on him. Was excited to see Spoon use his hops and I'm eager to see more. I would love to see Bufford become consistent with his game. I think the thing that got me excited the most was the attempted pick and roll with Craft and Sully. It was hard to see as it was on the opposite end of the court from me, but it looked like Sully didn't finish strong enough. He was fouled and got to the line, but it looked like he could have been more aggressive.

What's the deal with the change in the charging/blocking fouls? Someone told me anything inside the arch won't be a charge.

andyr78's picture

Yes if the defender is anywhere inside the arch below the basket it will be called a block.  Craft had one called on him last night.  It's something the defenders will need to make sure they are aware of when they are down low.

andyr78's picture

Considering that Matta went so deep in th bench last night.  I am not too overly concernced yet.  We should find out a lot more against Florida.  I don't think OSU will have any problem scoring points.  I start to worry if we are put up against a talented big man down low.  We don't have anyone with any substantial size to stop him.  Sully is good, but he's not a center.  Until Thomas learns to play defense he needs to come off the bench.

baddogmaine's picture

Harrellson (KY) absolutely schooled Sully last year.Sully had more points and rebounds but the paint was controlled by KY.  This will be a risk against a skilled big guy until someone else can help Sully inside. One way to deal with that is to pull Sully outside if he has the shot to go outside - and I don't mean the occassional probably bad idea 3, I mean the consistent 10-15 footer. Like Henson last night against the Spartans. If the foe only has one player with size they will either have to bring their center outside, giving us a better chance there, or let Sully exploit a mismatch. The problem might come when the opponent has bnoth a true center and a capable forward with size who can defend Sully outside. In other words, unless and until we get someone else who can sheriff the inside we are going to be at risk of Kentucky-type losses.

SilverBullets's picture

I agree that it might not be the most beneficial for the team for Sully to be on the perimeter.  Where I can see it helping is keeping Sully on the floor when he's foul trouble.  Thankfully that's not very often.

Rooster Buckburn's picture

I think we are going to miss Lighty and Deibler WAAAY more than we thought. Granted, first real game of the year, but felt a little 'yikes' last night against a WSU squad that was vastly outmanned, out-talented and outmatched and yet we only score 70+ on them??

baddogmaine's picture

Agreed. Diebler kept defenses honest. Sullinger got progressively frustrated as defenses collapsed on him. Unless we can hit from outside we will see defenses set to stop Sully.