Wright State visited Columbus tonight for this season’s Buckeye home opener but left with their first loss of the season, falling to OSU 73-42. The Buckeyes started out slowly before finally gaining momentum late in the first half and never again relinquishing control of the game. Jared Sullinger lead all scorers with 19 points, and very nearly notched his first double-double of the season with 9 rebounds. William Buford and Aaron Craft joined Sullinger in double figures with 13 and 10 points respectively.
Matta chose to run the same starting lineup that he had last week, using Craft, Smith Jr, and Buford in the backcourt, and Thomas and Sullinger in the frontcourt. The team came out attacking on both ends of the court with high energy. The defensive effort in particular was there in a big way as the Buckeyes repeatedly got into passing lanes and affected Wright State’s ball movement.
Wright State played good defense in their own right against the dynamic OSU offensive threat. The Raiders were clearly unafraid of the big stage playing against one of the top ranked teams in the country. They put great effort in scooping up rebounds and hustling for loose balls to try to keep OSU from getting critical second chance points. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make good use with their own possessions, as the Raiders missed more than a few easy baskets in close to the rim in the early going.
The Buckeyes switched to an unusual lineup by the middle of the first half. Shannon Scott, Jordan Sibert, Deshaun Thomas, and Evan Ravenel were paired up with William Buford as the only significantly experienced player on the floor. That combination of players seemed to struggle with the overall youth on the court and wasn’t able to score. The defensive effort, however, did not drop off at all compared to the starters which was a promising sign for what these kids can do.
Wright State really hurt themselves on offense with their fouls. While the refs were calling a particularly tight game, the Raiders found themselves committing offensive fouls repeatedly against the tough OSU defense. A lot of that had to do with WSU being impatient with the ball. When they settled down and passed the ball around they often found nice looks at the basket. Luckily for the Buckeyes, the Raiders struggled to remain patient every single possession.
Unsurprisingly, considering the youth of this OSU team, the Buckeyes made plenty of mental mistakes in the first half that made it tough for them to take control of the game. Bad turnovers, ball control violations, and minor gaffes on defense allowed WSU to stay in the game longer than they would have against the Buckeyes last season.
Eventually the Buckeyes took control of the game, and the reason for the sudden burst of energy was the entrance of JD Weatherspoon into the game. Buford immediately found Weatherspoon for a huge alley-oop that finally got the crowd excited. On the subsequent defensive possession Weatherspoon got a big steal on defense that lead to him getting fouled on a slam attempt. The sudden burst of effort on both ends of the court provided the spark that seemed to be missing for the Buckeyes this game.
Interestingly, the OSU rotation shrank drastically from what we saw in the exhibition game. Matta played his starters most of the first half, and brought Jordan Sibert in for 8 minutes. The other four players to see playing time saw no more than four minutes or less. It’s possible that this is an indication of how Matta is going to play this team this season. It could also simply be a sign that he wasn’t happy with how things looked in the first half, and wanted his starters to help take control. It’s hard to tell for certain right now, but it’s definitely something fans will be keeping an eye on in the future.
The Buckeyes emerged from the half much more focused on both ends of the court. They quickly scored six points in the half to put Wright State down twenty and really start to put the clamps on the game. One key to the change was OSU began to communicate better on offense and find the easier buckets inside that they had missed in the first half.
As is traditional for Thad Matta teams the Buckeyes continued to demonstrate the principles of excellent defense with a minimum of fouling. Impressively, the Buckeyes prevented WSU from scoring in the first five and a half minutes of the second half. This team is more than capable of completely shutting opponents down this season, which will be crucial for allowing the Bucks to open up leads with their inexperienced offense.
It’s been interesting to watch Sullinger play the four spot more this season. In Matta’s offense the four tends to float to the outside more than is traditional, making it more likely for Sullinger to put up three pointers when at that position. While Sullinger doesn’t seem fully comfortable playing as a power forward yet, you can see that he has the talent and skills to be able to do it. Most likely, it will require other players, such as Williams and Ravenel, to really start to take over the five so that Sully can focus on the power forward spot in practice.
Ultimately, every scholarship player on the OSU roster managed to see playing time, including Trey McDonald who only received 3 minutes in garbage time. He was also the only Buckeye that played but failed to put points on the board. Only three Buckeyes managed to break into double figures: Jared Sullinger with 19 points (9 rebounds, 3 blocks), William Buford with 13 (2 rebounds, 4 assists), and Aaron Craft with 10 points (3 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 assists). AJ Pacher and Reggie Arceneaux were the only Raiders to make double digit points with 13 points (4 rebounds) and 11 points (4 rebounds) respectively.
The Buckeyes shot a respectable 20-45 (44.4%) from the floor, and a comparatively low 4-13 (30.8%) from three. Wright State responded with 13-41 (31.7%) and 6-18 (33.3%) respectively, both numbers much lower than their percentages in the first half suggesting a big improvement in the OSU defensive intensity in the second half. The Buckeyes also won the rebound battle 34-28, and the turnover battle 14-25.
Ohio State next plays Florida in Value City Arena on Tuesday, November 15th at 8:00 PM Eastern Time. You’ll be able to see that game on ESPN.