Northern Kentucky visited Value City Arena for the first day of December and left without breaking 40 points, falling to the Buckeyes 70-43. Ohio State used their size advantage and made life difficult for the Norse on the defensive end, even while they struggled with their cold scoring all day long. LaQuinton Ross had a career day on the stat sheet scoring 22 points and collecting 8 rebounds. He was joined in double digits by DeShaun Thomas, who picked up 14 despite scoring only 4 in the first half. Northern Kentucky’s Jalen Billups was the only Norse to break double digits, scoring 11 points for the game.
The game started out slowly for the Buckeyes as they struggled to handle the fast paced, but smaller, Norse. It took the first 10 minutes of the game before the Buckeyes finally started to build a lead. By the end of the half, OSU had outpaced NKU on the shoulders of a 13 point first half from Ross. Surprisingly, the Buckeye’s starters were only able to drop 19 points in the entire half, and were outscored by Northern Kentucky’s top players, who put in 22 points.
The second half played out much differently. The Buckeyes played with much higher energy on both ends of the court and did a much better job of feeding the hot hands. Thomas finally opened up his scoring, and the Buckeyes finally started to work hard on the glass – particularly Thomas and Evan Ravenel who ended up with 8 and 7 rebounds for the day respectively. By the end, Amedeo Della Valle and Trey McDonald got to excite the crowd, particularly when Della Valle drained a wide open three pointer, giving the fans a great feeling about the future of the program.
There wasn’t a lot to take away from this game as a whole. Northern Kentucky was way overmatched, though hats off for the heart they showed all game long. The Buckeyes started out not taking them seriously, as they have in other games this season, and so it took some time for the team to finally gain some traction and build a big lead. That said, there are still a few things we can learn today.
1. Things are slowing down for LaQuinton Ross. With DeShaun Thomas struggling to find his shot, Ross put up a career high in points 22. He also showed improvement in his defense, including picking up a nice block right at the very apex of it’s arc.
2. Bench play. I’m not so much saying the Bench played particularly well – though they did. I’m really saying that Matta went deep into his bench in this one and get lots of experience for his younger players.
3. Energy out of the gate in the second half. Matta probably ran the guys up a flag-pole in the locker room, but the team definitely played with more energy on both ends of the court. It would be nice to see them do it consistently for an entire 40 minutes, though.
4. The Buckeyes might be the best passing team in the country. These guys are absolutely astounding when they share the basketball around. If only they could connect on the shots at the end of it, but the circus passing is outstanding.
1. Early Scoring and decision making. As implied by the third positive, the Buckeyes came out of the locker room in the first half with a very poor effort with their shooting and decision making. Part of that was simply the fact that Thomas was having a cold shooting night and it took time for Ross to hit the floor and explode. However, the decision making was pretty sub-par as well, and that continued through most of the game. It’s almost starting to become a theme this year.
2. Aaron Craft’s layups. This goes back a couple of games, but for some reason Craft has not been able to connect on his layups this season. This from the kid who normally hit nearly every layup he took. He needs to practice them a few times and get back his form.
3. Focus and improvement. In the preview, I suggested that this would be a good game to work on our focus and the other things we didn’t do well against Duke. Unfortunately, we didn’t see too much improvement from the Buckeyes as they seemed to play down to the level of their opponent early on.
4. Ball control. It seems like the team sometimes loses track of what they’re doing, or takes a riskier move with the ball than they should. The end result, of course, is an unfortunate turnover. They either need to start getting smarter with the ball, or work on keeping control of it.
The Buckeyes next play the Long Beach State 49ers on Saturday, December 8th at Value City Arena. You’ll be able to see that game at Noon on the Big Ten Network.