Buckeyes Use Defense to Thwart Winthrop Upset Hopes

By Kyle Rowland on December 18, 2012 at 10:15p

Basketball stat guru Ken Pomeroy pegged Winthrop’s chances at upsetting Ohio State at a mere one percent. The Buckeyes were favored by 27.5 points over the 4-4 Eagles, who have only defeated one Division I team. So when Ohio State got out to an early 9-2 lead, the 13,707 in attendance figured the result would be similar to the previous six games this season – never in doubt.  

Lenzelle Smith Jr. creating turnovers. Defense wins championship.

But Winthrop, which already ended one long win streak in the state of Ohio this season, led the game more than five minutes into the second half. That was reason enough for Thad Matta’s blood pressure to rise.

Ohio State quickly restored order, though, going on a 27-10 run and holding off Winthrop to win, 65-55. The Buckeyes held the Eagles scoreless for six-plus minutes during the decisive run. That doomed any hope Winthrop had of ending Ohio State’s 38-game non-conference home win streak.

“It was the defense, no question,” Matta said, regarding what sparked the Buckeyes. “But we made some shots as well. Some of the shots in the first half didn’t go down. That kind of knocked the wind out of us. You have to learn to play through that. The defense won the game.”

On Saturday, Winthrop won at Ohio University to put a halt to the Bobcats' 16-game home win streak. One of the ingredients in that win was winning the turnover battle. Tuesday night was vastly different.

Ohio State entered the game fourth in the nation in creating turnovers and seventh in turnover margin. The Buckeyes scored 17 points off 14 Winthrop turnovers and turned it over a season-low five times.

Deshaun Thomas made his first two shots of the night before missing the next nine over the first and second halves. But when Ohio State faced a second-half deficit, Thomas came through with five consecutive baskets, including back-to-back three-pointers to put Ohio State in front, 47-41, prompting a Winthrop timeout.

“Good Lord,” Winthrop head coach Pat Kelsey said, “Deshaun Thomas starting being Deshaun Thomas.

“He’s one of the most complete all-around players in the United States of America. He plays inside, he plays out, he handles the ball, he can score off screens.”

Thomas ended the night with a game-high 21 points, nine rebounds and a career-high four assists. Lenzelle Smith Jr. had 14 points and Aaron Craft tallied eight points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals, including two during the Buckeyes’ second-half run.

“I wasn’t ready mentally, and I knew my shots were not going in,” Thomas said. “Aaron Craft gave me a good handoff and I made the shot. We have to make sure we are ready, especially when your time comes.”

I MAKE BUCKETS!Thomas and the Buckeyes outmuscled Winthrop. 

Winthrop was aware that winning the game would have to come from holding Ohio State down, not getting in a floor battle and trying to outscore the home team. The Eagles held Ohio star DJ Cooper to 3 of 12 shooting Saturday, while the Bobcats shot 36 percent as a team and only 27 percent in the second half.

That plan took hold again in the first half Tuesday. Ohio State converted on less than 35 percent of its field goal attempts. The Buckeyes' first-half performance was arguably their worst half of basketball since the second half in last season’s Final Four loss to Kansas.

In fact, that loss, combined with the Buckeyes' regular-season loss at Allen Fieldhouse last season may have contributed to Tuesday night’s lackluster effort. Thomas even admitted after the game that the team was looking ahead to Saturday’s showdown with No. 9 Kansas at Value City Arena.

“It’s unfortunate if that was the case,” Matta said. “I think the one thing you have to get your kids to understand is that you only get about 32 guaranteed games. The guys have to understand that you always have to get better. I don’t think this team is as good as it is going to be. You have to change the mindset of your team and come every day to practice and work.”

Winthrop ran an offense similar to that of Savannah State. But unlike Savannah State, Winthrop was able to establish the tempo and dictate how Ohio State played. Despite a huge height disadvantage, Winthrop outrebounded Ohio State, 38-36.

“I told our guys for us to be a good team our game has to be muddy,” Kelsey said. “It is sure as heck not a work of art. Coach Skip Prosser used to say, ‘Watching our team play, Jimmy Naismith would be rolling around in his grave.’ It is like a tractor pull sometimes. That is who we have to be.”

After leading 9-2 early, Ohio State fell behind, 14-12, and couldn’t pull away from the Eagles until midway through the second half. The first half included a four-minute stretch when the Buckeyes missed eight consecutive shots.

Ohio State led, 31-30, at halftime.

“If we need a wake up call for our upcoming game this weekend then we shouldn’t be playing at all,” Craft said. “Every team we play we take it one game at a time. If we are not sure we are ready to play Kansas with what is at stake then we need to reevaluate ourselves as a team.”


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Hoping we were simply looking forward to the KU game and were just flat tonight (keeping fingers crossed)

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

mitchjacobsen01's picture

^This.  I'm not jumping off the cliff quite yet.  Kansas will definitely be a better measuring stick.  These guys need to avoid defensive dry spells or it will be a long regular season and a short post-season.

BeijingBucks's picture

it's on the team 'leaders' as much as the coach to get the mindset right.

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

HolyBuckeye1093's picture

Classic trap game IMO. Very important game for Amir Williams today. He needs to keep improving as we move into Big Ten schedule.

bhartman13's picture

I agree Amir showed some progress today and hopefully his confidence continues to grow. I really don't think this was a trap game considering the Buckeyes were 30 point favorites. I think they just didn't play well and had a very poor shooting night which happens.  This performance could be the wake up call they needed with the showdown looming.  

zbd's picture

OSU is very overrated. They are terrible shooters. Rebounding is a part time occurance. Leadership is lacking.  Kansas will clean their clock.

gwalther's picture

There really isn't much here that offers a legitimate criticism of the team. To me, this year's Ohio State team has two main issues, but those issues only affect how good of a top tier team they are... So, even with them, that doesn't lead me to think the Buckeyes will "get their clocked cleaned." They seemed to handle playing Duke at Duke fairly well.
The two issues I referenced are: lack of front-line depth (Ravanel is solid but about 6'8, and Amir Williams just isn't good -- looking at you to step up, McDonald), and lack of a consistent second scoring option to Deshaun (keep developing Q).
You have to be a little more insightful with your posts.

Class of 2008

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

We have a consistent second scoring option, it's just not the same player every night.  Last night Lenzelle was hot, the other game Ravenel played well.  We aren't playing great, but let's be OK with that for now.  I think each player that sees the court has had a great game.  I think this highlights the potential and talent on the team, but you're right, they need to be consistent.  To get back to my point, it's December, and sometimes, most times, towards the end of a season of ball, these things happen.  So let's be happy that we get to see and have seen these flashes.  Then let's hope that these flashes become more of the norm come March.  

Read my entire screen name....

BeijingBucks's picture

Gary Anderson to Wisky?  well he outta recruit the heck outta... Utah?

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

RBuck's picture

Main problem with the Bucks is that they really have no one to run their offense through. The big men have to step up to draw double teams inside.

Long live the southend.

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

It was very poor offense last night.  No ball movement - swinging from side to side, dribble penetration, or high-low game.  We settled for jump shots for an entire game and just played uninspired ball.

Read my entire screen name....

AC1972's picture

I agree here.  I think tOSU needs to go inside more.  I've been a big eRav fan.  He's not Jared, but he can handle himself.  He can score and pass at the level that is requried to win the B1G and make a nice tournament run.
The dude has been going aganist Jared in practice for a couple years and shared and apartment with the guy.  Something must've rubbed off!  He's also mature.  He can do it.