It’s been quietly bothering Deshaun Thomas since the end of October and the feeling has lingered for more than three weeks – the Ohio State basketball team had yet to dominate an opponent dating all the way back to the team’s exhibition game against Walsh.
So call Ohio State’s 91-45 blowout win over Missouri-Kansas in Value City Arena Friday night therapeutic for Thomas, who scored a team-high 21 points to lead the Buckeyes (3-0) to their most prevailing win of the young season.
“That’s what Coach is looking for in this team,” Thomas said. “We know we have another gear in us. We came out with fire and when we where up by 25 or 30 we kept our foot on the pedal and kept going. That’s what we have to do.”
OSU coach Thad Matta was pleased in what he thought was the team’s most complete game of the season, particularly because the No. 3 Buckeyes played with consistent intensity even with large leads for most of the contest.
Next up for the Buckeyes is a date at No. 5 Duke on Wednesday in the team’s first game against a ranked opponent and on an opposing team’s home floor. Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 13 points Shannon Scott, LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson added 11 each and Shannon Scott had 10 points and 10 assists in his first career double-double.
Matta saw what he considered a reasonable tune-up for the Blue Devils.
“What you saw was guys doing what they’re supposed to do,” Matta said. “That’s one of the biggest challenges for this team and hopefully we continue to embrace humility and know we’re not even close to a finished product. Having that sense of, ‘Hey, I have a job to do to help this team’ really helped us tonight.”
Ohio State came out firing early and never let up. When Smith knocked down a three from the corner with 13:02 remaining in the first half, the Buckeyes held a 20-3 advantage. The Roos did little to fight off the firing Buckeyes, missing on all but one of their first 10 field goal attempts while OSU darted out to the early 17-point lead.
Had the game followed the trend of the Buckeyes’ first three games, the Buckeyes may have allowed their opponent to eek back into the game. Instead, OSU – who finished the game having shot 61 percent from the field – continued to score at will while building an insurmountable first half lead.
Scott took over midway through the first half with a collection of exciting plays, including an alley-oop assist to center Amir Williams, who finished the pass with a thunderous dunk to bring the Value City Arena crowd to their collective feet.
Playing his most complete game as a Buckeye, Scott showed glimpses of the playmaking point guard Matta has been describing since the team began training camp. Scott was disruptive on defense, pushed the ball quickly in transition and had solid vision while feeding an array of Buckeyes the ball before eventual hoops.
“I just really calmed down from last year,” Scott said. “I wanted to go out there and make things happen right away last year, but this year I have learned from that and I am just slowing it down and letting things come to me.”
Sparked by Scott’s quick tempo, the Buckeyes’ fast start was complemented by an 18-2 run over the last 4:47 of the first half to open up a 53-18 halftime lead.
“I was excited to see our guys play from start to finish and we felt going into the game that we didn’t ever want Kanas City to be comfortable on offense because they run their offense really well,” Matta said. “We wanted to be as disruptive as we possible could and I think our guys did that.”
Matta said in a press conference before the game that he wasn’t sure any team has earned their rankings this early in the season, including his Buckeyes. Ohio State, however, will get the chance to prove it belongs when facing the Blue Devils in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Not sure of what to expect in his team’s first major battle of the season, Matta said he was anxious to see how his team responds early.
“We’ll find out (if they’re ready) on Wednesday night,” Matta said. “That’s going to obviously be a big road test for this basketball team. Going into that type of environment will be beneficial for us in the long run. Our guys are excited to play.”
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