There is no question Ohio State did not play their best basketball on Tuesday night, but once the DeShaun Thomas show got started, their was no stopping it. Thomas finished his outing against Winthrop with 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 points. While the numbers were typical of the All-American Thomas, the way in which he got to those numbers wasn’t. DeShaun Thomas is a pretty consistent shooter, drilling the shots he needs to make with relative ease. Tuesday, however, Thomas went 7-21 from the field while missing as many as 9 in a row after making the first two shots of the game. He also went 3-10 from beyond the three-point line, a mark much lower than he is accustomed to.
Despite Thomas’ superior effort when the game was on the line, Buckeye Nation can’t be too thrilled with Ohio State’s performance as a whole. They also shouldn’t be disappointed in the Buckeye’s effort either.
As silly as it may seem, this was a textbook case of Ohio State overlooking their opponent. Outside of Duke, Ohio State has yet to play a worthy opponent and surely Winthrop was no different. However, in situations like these, in their most drastic form, losses to the Winthrops of the world can occur. When you look over your opponent and to the other side of the game that’s directly ahead of you, bad things can often occur. That was very nearly the case with the Ohio State Buckeyes, but luckily they were focused enough, and have enough talent, to beat Winthrop. It’s important that they overcame Winthrop even though they are still channeling all of their focus on the Jayhawks.
Some positives to come out of the Winthrop game, including simply getting the win, include Lenzelle Smith’s and Aaron Craft’s performances. As DeShaun will be the workhorse for this Buckeye offense, when Lenzelle and Aaron can help the cause, the help is always appreciated. Lenzelle Smith Jr. finished with 14 points while shooting 5-11 from the field, grabbed 4 rebounds, and dished out 3 assists. Craft had 8 of his own with 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals, putting an all around effort for the Buckeyes. To see these guys excel in their final matchup before the Jayhawks only portends good things for the game.
As for the bad news, it comes from the offensive “Robin” to DeShaun Thomas’ “Batman”. The Buckeyes have found a reliable second option on offense in LaQuinton Ross, but against Winthrop, Ross struggled. In only 16 minutes of action, Ross scored 3 points on 1 of 5 shooting adding only a single rebound. In addition, Ross’ counterpart at the starting SF position, Sam Thompson, struggled mightily as well. Thompson had 2 points on 1-3 shooting in only 14 minutes on the floor. If Thomas has an outing like he did against the Blue Devils in Durham, Ross is going to have to have a very productive offensive outing if the Buckeyes want to succeed against the Jayhawks. While Ohio State doesn’t necessarily need Thompson to be an offensive threat, having Sam excel would be a welcome plus against a team like the Jayhawks.
Finally, Ohio State’s preseason is over. After 5 straight games at home against sub-par opponents, finally the competition picks up for Ohio State, staring with the battle against the Kansas Jayhawks. The Buckeyes then get a final tuneup for the Big Ten season against Chicago State, but immediately turn around and play Nebraska and #10 Illinois in Champaign.
I guess Ohio State’s preseason wasn’t a terrible thing. Although it wasn’t all that fun to watch, it gave the Buckeyes a chance to understand further who they are as a team before getting into play against the toughest conference in college basketball. It would have been very difficult to play a Big Ten schedule like the one Ohio State has in front of them, without understanding what kind of team they would be. Losing two players like Sullinger and Buford has definitely put a strain on the Buckeyes that they have hopefully gotten used to by this point.
Well, just like that the Buckeyes have their eyes on another top 10 non-conference opponent. It’s the game we’ve all been waiting for since Ohio State took a heart-wrenching loss to Duke in Durham. Hopefully, this time, there is a much better outcome for the Buckeyes.