Ohio State Outlasts Wyoming 65-50

Written November 25th, 2013 by Eric

The last time the Bucks played the Cowboys was in 1995, which resulted in a 72-65 loss on a “neutral” court in Wyoming. This time around, things turned out a little differently as the Buckeyes found their game in the last ten minutes to secure the 65-50 victory. Lenzelle Smith Jr. led all scorers with 20 points, including 5-8 shooting the three, and 8 rebounds. Amir Williams joined him in double digits with 12 points, and earned his second double double with 16 rebounds, while Aaron Craft scored 10. Larry Nance Jr. scored 17 to lead his team, and was the only Cowboy to score double digits.

The game started with high energy play from both teams. Wyoming demonstrated good patience in attacking the Buckeye defense. Repeatedly they found gaping holes in the defense, giving them uncontested paths to an easy layup. They also had no trouble finding open looks at the basket. Considering OSU was still playing a high energy defense, it was an impressive start.

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they walked straight into a hot shooting OSU team. Shannon Scott and Lenzelle Smith both launched buckets from beyond the arc and hit their first three straight. Amir Williams also started particularly well down low. Williams scooped up two offensive rebounds and managed to put them both back for points.

After the first four minutes, the teams settled into play a little and began to methodically probe each other’s defenses. Wyoming’s guards turned out to be the winners here, effectively drawing the defense and taking advantage of the pass to find easy looks. The Buckeyes began to struggle to find good looks at the basket at the same time, giving Wyoming the perfect opportunity to close the gap on the scoreboard.

Thad Matta wasn’t going to simply let Wyoming have their way with his defense. A quick adjustment was all that was necessary to head the Cowboys off at the pass. The next time Wyoming ran their play to open up the OSU defense for the dribble drive, Aaron Craft rotated under the basket to be in position to defend it. Other adjustments helped to shut down the Wyoming offense while the Buckeyes went on a 8-2 run, opening up a double digit lead.

The Cowboys weren’t going away quickly though. After giving up the big run, Wyoming came back with adjustments to their offense and started to make things happen again. It helped that the Buckeye defense wasn’t paying attention to what the Cowboys were doing, nor particularly focused on this game in general. On several occasions the Cowboys found easy buckets that should have never happened. The play gave Wyoming plenty of confidence, and kept them attacking the Buckeyes. The result was great success finding fast break opportunities, and again a narrowed gap on the scoreboard.

A critical Lenzelle Smith three pointer, plus a Shannon Scott free throw, kept the Buckeyes afloat as the half came to a close. Surprisingly, Wyoming found themselves down only four points heading into the locker rooms – despite the fact that the Buckeyes had shot 46.2% from beyond the arc. Considering OSU also held the rebounding advantage, it seemed like they should be controlling the game. However, a dominant interior game made a significant difference for Wyoming as they hit 55.6% of their shots from the floor, taking advantage of plentiful close range opportunities.

The second half started sluggishly for both teams. Neither squad was able to put a basket down through the first two minutes, despite plentiful excellent opportunities on both sides. But it was Wyoming who shook off the slump first, and they did it with an exclaimation point. A big three pointer, and a couple well timed fouls, gave Wyoming their first signficant lead of the game. With the momentum fully in the hands of the visitors from Laramie, and the Buckeyes struggling to make their offense go, the game was starting to take a bleak turn.

An Amir Williams putback, followed by two huge transition scores from Aaron Craft turned things around in a hurry. A missed slam dunk put-back by Wyoming led to the first, followed by a critical turnover in the paint that led to the second. That gave the Buckeyes the lead and the momentum, as well as finally got the crowd into the game. Unfortunately, a poor decision by Scott to push a one of the Cowboys’ players to the ground drew a tech. Wyoming tied the score on the free throws and partially killed the momentum gain for the Bucks.

The Buckeyes had finally realized (again) that their offense functions best when supplied by the defense. By smothering the Cowboys on the defensive end, the Bucks were able to generate fast break opportunities, and were also able to simply run their offensive sets more effectively. The addition of Aaron Craft attacking the basket with more aggression helped set the tone of the entire team on both ends of the court. This allowed the Bucks to take what little momentum remained after the tech and slowly add to it.

Amir Williams deserves a huge amount of credit for working on his interior presence. Not every big man can be an effective shot blocker, but Amir Williams is starting to develop that part of his game particularly well. He has displayed a fantastic timing on his shot blocking this year, and it has made a big difference to the quality of this defense. When added to his rebounding, which is regularly in double digits, and his scoring, Williams is definitely becoming a key piece of this team.

The Buckeyes ended the game shooting 23-57 (40.4%) from the floor and 8-23 (34.8%) from three, while Wyoming responded with 19-53 (35.8%) from the floor and 2-13 (15.4%) from three. OSU outrebounded the Cowboys 42-30, and notched 7 blocks to just 3 for Wyoming.

The Buckeyes will next face North Florida in Columbus, Ohio on Friday, November 29th. You’ll be able to see that game at 5:00 PM Eastern on the Big Ten Network.

1 Comment

  1. KenNo Gravatar
    November 25th, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    Thanks for the recap and your perspective. Glad to see Amir develop like he has, we’ll need his inside presence when we roll into Conference play. And yes, I think we’ve seen that before where OSU’s defense triggers their offense.

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