It was like Christmas for Buckeye basketball fans, as the Buckeyes opened up the season in exhibition play with a 93-63 win over Walsh university. As many would expect in the first game of the season, many questions were answered and many still loom. Most importantly though, the Bucks took advantage of a true tune up game with a top notch D2 program from the GLIAC conference.
Head Coach Thad Matta went with what many expected to be the starting five this season to open up the game. The two seniors, Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith started at guard, with Sam Thompson at the three, LaQuinton Ross at the four and Amir Williams at the 5.
Early and often, the defensive intensity was spectacular. The best defensive backcourt in the country lived up to it’s reputation. Shannon Scott came off the bench and got three or four blocks and a handful of steals in the first half to help set the tone. Aaron Craft was simply amazing at pushing defenders off to either Lenzelle Smith, Shannon Scott, or Sam Thompson to allow them to get the steal. Ohio State jumped ahead early in part to the 17 turnovers they were able to force in the first half and finished strong.
Craft led the way with 14 points and 5 assists. Smith finished 15 points and 8 boards, while Shannon Scott had a stat stuffing game — 9 points 7 rebounds and 4 assists.
In the post, Amir Williams showed what seems to be major improvement when it came to spacing and fronting the basket. On defense, he used his better positioning and pure athletic ability to block shots and grab some form rebounds The Motor City big man put together 10 rebounds — seven in the first half and added 8 points. Marc Loving showed early as well why he will be a solid option off the bench for coach Matta as a freshman. The Toledo native had some great offensive moves to the basket. His play will be key if the Bucks plan to play with any type of a larger lineup, where LaQuinton Ross can move to the small forward position. We also saw Loving in at power forward in the second half, paired with Ross at the 5. Loving added 9 rebounds, which was great to see from power forward position. He also dropped five points.
Ross, who might be the biggest x-factor of the season played extremely well on offense. Fans know about his range, but it was evident that he has improved his strength in the paint, with many solid drives to the basket. He made five trips to the charity stripe in the game. His offense is right where you hope for it to be to start the season. He tallied 15 points and really showed that he can take over games as needed.
Amedeo Della Valle showed his range from deep. Afroman drained three treys in the ballgame and finished with 14 points.
The only scholarship player not to see time on the floor was Kam Williams, the freshman guard.
Up next for the Buckeyes, a match-up with Morgan State on Saturday to open up the regular season. You can catch the game on the Big Ten Digital Network or Ohio State Radio Network.