For their last non-conference game of the season, the Buckeyes welcomed the Warhawks of Louisiana-Monroe to Value City Arena. Not surprisingly, against a team that has only won 17 games in the last four season, the Buckeyes had no trouble with the seriously over-matched Warhawks, cruising to a 71-31 victory. The Buckeyes were led in scoring by the hero of the Notre Dame comeback, as Lenzelle Smith put down 17 for the game. He was followed in double digits by LaQuinton Ross’s 15, and Amadeo Della Valle’s 12. Louisiana-Monroe was led in scoring by Jayon James with 7.
Things started out well for the Buckeyes. LaQuinton Ross scored the first five points of the game, including three on free throws. The Bucks were also able to get the fast break part of their game going with cherry picked scores for Craft and Lenzelle Smith. Particularly impressive on Smith’s was that Amir Williams screened Smith’s lane to the basket in the paint. The floor awareness and teamwork was yet another nice thing to see in Amir’s slow and steady development.
Things began to slow down a little for the Bucks scoring following the first TV timeout, but the same certainly couldn’t be said about the defensive intensity. The OSU defense continually gave the Warhawk’s offense trouble, forcing a shot-clock violation, and keeping ULM from having any good looks at the basket. Some of this can easily be chalked up to the Warhawk’s lack of offensive prowess; the team had no sense of urgency during the shot-clock violation, and clearly didn’t know what was going on, for example. That said, the defense did a good job of not giving up easy passing lanes, unlike against Notre Dame.
As the subs started to work out the kinks, the scoring began to pick up again. Amadeo Della Valle put down an open three, immediately followed by a layup on a cherry-picked fast break opportunity. That was then followed by a fast break that put Marc Loving on the charity stripe. Ultimately, those two were able to combine for 10 points before the ten minute mark of the first half. That kind of bench scoring can make a big difference in conference play.
Eventually the shooting cooled for the Buckeyes. At the same time, the Warhawks began to find a little success on offense. Where OSU was shooting near 80% to open the game, they began to find themselves struggling to sink a basket for several minutes of the middle of the first half. This allowed ULM to close the enormous gap on the scoreboard a little. However, a three-pointer from Della Valle seemed to take the lid off the basket. High energy play from Lenzelle Smith also helped make the difference.
Louisiana-Monroe seemed to have serious trouble with OSU’s man defense all night long. The Buckeyes worked hard to fight over the screens, generally making it difficult for ULM to find an open look on the perimeter. With Williams, McDonald, Ross, and Loving doing a great job of sealing off the middle, the ULM offense was forced to get creative to score points. Passes out of the lane occasionally opened up a look from the perimeter, if OSU collapsed too much. ULM was also able to find points on second chance opportunities, when they were able to collect an offensive rebound. Typically, the Warhawks were scoring when chaos took hold, and OSU’s defense hadn’t reset itself.
The Buckeye shooting seemed to stay in the locker-room for the beginning of the second half. Smith missed a couple open threes, including one that went far wide and airballed. The only positive to be gleaned from the negative run was that ULM wasn’t able to score either. That gave OSU enough time to get the shooting unbottled, as Smith eventually did drop a trey. That was eventually followed by a Shannon Scott three and a LaQuinton Ross two, opening the lead for the Scarlet and Gray to thirty.
Defense continued to be a serious strength for the Bucks through the beginning of the half. For the first eight minutes, ULM was held completely scoreless, allowing the Bucks to go on a 12-0 run. Even against weaker competition, this is a great sign for what this team can do. It is very hard to completely shut down an opponent’s offense in the game of basketball, regardless of their quality as a team. To do so this thoroughly, where ULM wasn’t able to get a basket in the second half until exactly the halfway point of the period, is incredible.
For the game, the Buckeyes shot 22-51 (43.1%) from the floor, and 7-22 (31.8%) from three. Louisiana-Monroe shot 10-53 (18.9%) and 3-17 (17.6%) respectively. OSU’s shooting was a little low compared to previous outings, but the numbers they forced their opponents to shoot was an impressive showing of defense. The Bucks also won in the assist column (14-4), the steals column (5-1), and blocks (6-1).
With the win, the Buckeyes remain undefeated at 13-0, and are undefeated for their non-conference schedule.
The Buckeyes will next face the Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette on New Year’s Eve. You’ll be able to see that game at 1:00 PM eastern time on ESPN2.