The Buckeyes finally played their first official game of the season today against Albany Great Danes at home. Albany gave a good fight early in the first half before succumbing to OSU’s defensive effort and finally falling 82-60 in Value City Arena. Aaron Craft led all scorers with 20 points on 6-9 shooting for the game. He was tied with Mike Black of Albany, who also scored 20 on 7-13 from the floor. Three other Buckeyes managed to score in double digits today: DeShaun Thomas with 19, Lenzelle Smith with 18, and LaQuinton Ross with 10.
The early parts of the game showed a bit of an up and down battle as Albany took it to the Buckeyes on both sides of the court. Finally, Matta called a timeout late in the first half to chew out his team over their lackadaisical effort on the defensive end. After that, the Buckeyes put on a clinic, going on a 25-4 run over the next 8 minutes split by the half. Once the Bucks had a 20 point lead, they coasted the rest of the way to the comfortable victory.
Mike Black, point guard for Albany is a killer scorer. He does an excellent job driving the lane, and is a very good three point shooter. He will make the American East Conference nervous all season long with his offensive prowess. Albany is set up to do pretty well this year if they can find a few more pieces to help Black out.
As for the Buckeyes, they need to figure out how to turn things on from the beginning of the game. It would be better if they didn’t need to take a timeout every game to get chewed out before they start playing quality defense. Hopefully what they learned today is that great defense leads to good offense on the other end, and perhaps they’ll start to execute better to start the game. The season is early yet, and there is plenty of learning to be done by this young team.
1. The offense looks better. Started sluggishly as the Buckeyes missed their first 5 or so shots. Eventually settled in and started taking better looks. They’ll really get it going later this season once they shake off the shooting rust, but DeShaun “Tank” Thomas is going to make it happen early.
2. Aaron Craft. He’s just crafty in so many ways. He scored from beyond the arc early, then began to take the ball inside with a few sweet moves. His offensive game has definitely stepped up in a big way.
3. The defense looks pretty solid when they put in the maximum effort. The Buckeyes played almost exclusively man-to-man defense, just like in the exhibition a few weeks ago. For the most part, despite a couple issues here and there, the defense as a whole did a very nice job of closing out and getting a hand in the face of the shooters.
4. Three point shooting. Talk about big steps foward from the last few seasons. The Buckeyes sank a ludicrous 60% of their trey attempts, hitting 12-20 for the game. Aaron Craft, who we mentioned above, hit 5-7 on his own. He’s definitely beginning to take possession of the scoring part of his role for this team. Also worth noting was DeShaun Thomas’s 4-9 shooting from three, with a couple of those coming very close to going down. If he starts a game with a little more fire, he’ll hit quite a few more of those attempts.
5. Teamwork. These guys as a whole seem to work very well together as a team. Everyone has a role, and knows their role well, and they work together to put players in a position to give their best effort. This is quite apparent in the passing and distributing that goes on, especially above the arc, as many players found wide open looks at the basket because of excellent ball motion by others on the team.
1. Amir Williams struggles on both ends of the court at times. His definitely not a polished product at this point, but that wasn’t a surprise. However, his lack of rebounding is a serious flaw for the tallest guy the Buckeyes can put on the court. He did have a nice assist to Thomas through two defenders late in the second half, and his defense is noteworthy, but he was fairly quiet otherwise.
2. Fouling on defense. There were seven Buckeye fouls in the first 11 minutes of the game. It cooled off to only two over the last 9 minutes of the half, but that still lead to 13 foul shots from the opponent in the half (they converted 9 of them). That’s a bit more than you want to give up in a half.
3. Offensive execution against the zone needs help. Early in the second half, Albany switched their defensive look into a zone, and the Buckeye’s lineup struggled on three or four straight possessions, turning the ball over repeatedly. The team needs to read what the defense is showing them, and take care to make the right choices. Turning it over once after a defense change is normal, three times is a problem.
4. Free throw shooting. The Buckeyes connected on less than 50% of their shots from the charity stripe in this one, going only 6-13 for the game. Not only is that a pathetic number of attempts for a Matta team, that’s an atrocious hit rate. These guys need to start shooting free throws at the end of every practice for the rest of the season, starting now.
The Buckeyes next play Rhode Island in Uncasville, Connecticut on Saturday, November 17th. You’ll be able to see that game at 5:00 PM Eastern on ESPN3.