Looking for the exit, Dwyane Wade walked the Value City Arena concourse moments after Ohio State’s 85-63 win over Duke Tuesday night.
The Miami Heat guard and NBA megastar saw Buckeyes sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas out of the corner of his eye. Wade threw his arms up, made a loud noise, and stuck his tongue out at Thomas before darting out the back door.
“That’s what he does when he scores,” Thomas explained to BSB. “I did that on one of my 3-pointers that I made. I guess he was messing with me for stealing his move.”
Thomas was itching to take one out of Wade’s playbook.
The stage was set for Thomas to steal the show. The No. 2 Buckeyes were hosting one of the biggest non-conference games in the history of the program, legendary sportscaster Dick Vitale was calling the game and Wade and his teammate LeBron James were sitting courtside to take in the action.
Oh, and there were 25 NBA scouts littered all over the arena.
“I wanted to come out and have a big game,” Thomas admitted. “Who wouldn’t want to show out for some of the best players in the game on that stage? But I knew I had to stay within the system and play for my teammates.”
The 6-6 forward, currently stuck with the reputation for taking questionable shots in inopportune times, was eager enough to lapse into previous bad habits early. He chucked up a 3-pointer on his first shot that missed the rim and fell short to the right.
“I wanted to get off to a fast start,” admitted Thomas, who missed each of his first two shot attempts of the game. “Maybe I rushed that one a little.”
The mistakes were forgive minutes later. Though the Buckeyes jumped out of the gates to achieve an 11-0 lead – a run where Thomas didn’t make a bucket – it was a scoring tear by Thomas that helped Ohio State put the game nearly out of reach at halftime.
A baseline jumper that hit the rim, bounced up in the air and fell back into the hoop capped nine consecutive points to close out the half for Thomas. During that tear, 9-2 Ohio State run, the Buckeyes (7-0) turned its halftime lead into a 47-28 advantage.
It was the first appearance of “Microwave Offense” of the season, referring to Thomas’ ability to get hot and score a succession of points quickly. It couldn’t have come at a better time for an Ohio State team looking to make a national statement.
“That's what Deshaun does,” Ohio State sophomore point guard Aaron Craft said. “I don't know if you know what he did in high school, but Deshaun has come a long way. He understands that every shot is important now and that is just a testament to what kind of kid he is. He's definitely very coachable and he was able to knock down easy shots for us in the game.”
For a while, it felt like high school all over again for Thomas. He was scoring at will and single-handedly taking over a game. Matta enjoyed seeing his streaky forward get into a groove, something he saw on a few occasions a year ago.
But Thomas’ role is different than it’s been in the past, as Matta is looking for defense out of the sophomore. The foward is perhaps the third scoring option on this team behind senior William Buford and sophomore big man Jared Sullinger.
“Everybody wants things to happen so fast,” said Matta of Thomas, who finished the game with 18 points and five rebounds in 28 minutes. “I always felt, even last year, that he was going to come into his own.”
Thomas felt like he was “the x-factor” in the game because he scored 18 points. Matta had a different thought process after watching Thomas hold Blue Devils’ leading scorer Ryan Kelly – who came into the game averaging 14.6 points per game – to none.
“We did,” said Matta when asked if the Buckeyes wanted Thomas to play that role. “Not for offense, but for defense. What we had seen (Kelly) can do, we kind of had a special thing for him. I thought Deshaun did a very nice job on him.”
The scoring tear will make the highlights next to Wade. The defense could take Ohio State to the next level of the NCAA Tournament.
On the biggest stage, Thomas was glad to do both.
Follow Me on Twitter and find us on Facebook.