Jared Sullinger returned from a contusion on his foot and notched 18 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and an assist, as Ohio State rolled Lamar 70-50 in a game that was about as much fun as finding out your favorite football team is not bowl eligible until after the 2013 season. Seriously, this was a horrible, awful display of basketball at times, despite the positive outcome. The Buckeyes (11-1) shot just 45.2% (28-62) from the floor, 35.2% (6-17) beyond the arc, and an unbelievably putrid 42.1% (8-19) at the charity stripe. Reigning B1G POW Deshaun Thomas overcame a sluggish start to score 16 points and grab five boards. No other Buckeye finished in doubles but Aaron Craft contributed six assists, three steals, three rebounds and four points. William Buford scored seven before an apparent shoulder injury. He returned, but failed to score on his last four shots, though he did record four assists, leaving him just one helper shy of the 1,000-point, 500-rebound, 300-assist club.
The Cardinals (8-4) were helpful to the OSU cause, turning the ball over 14 times and hitting just 35.1% of their field goal attempts and none of their 12 three-point tries. Aside from the ugliness of the game, a very subdued crowd provided zero energy and the teams played like they were in an empty gym, which they kind of were. Half empty, anyway. The Buckeyes did a nice job on the boards for the most part, winning the rebounding battle 39-35, although they had a much bigger advantage before Sullinger checked out of the game for good after putting in 30 minutes of work. Thad Matta emptied his benchand all 11 Buckeyes who played scored at least two points. LaQuinton Ross still did not see the floor though, and neither did Trey McDonald.
Ohio State used an 11-2 run to erase an early 4-3 deficit and take control of the game, but they never really ran away with it. Anytime they approached a 20-point lead Lamar crept back to within 14 or so. The icy shooting and horrible free-throw shooting contributed in the first half, while six second-half turnovers and a number of poor shot selections did the same in the second half. The Buckeyes were pretty good in transition, and much sharper offensively after the break, at least while the starters were in, but they could not get on track and the dead atmosphere prevented any kind of adrenaline-fueled run. I struggle to think of any decent play-by-play to bring you because the game was just that ugly.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. continues to struggle to find any kind of offense, but that didn’t stop him from launching a few ill-advised jumpers in traffic. Smith pulled down seven rebounds, but that doesn’t excuse a 0-3 night at the line from the 2-guard spot. He finished with five points on 2-5 shooting. Shannon Scott recorded five assists without a turnover in a nice outing in relief of Craft. Amir Williams played only eight minutes but scored five points, blocked two shots and grabbed two rebounds. Evan Ravenel played only seven minutes and not at all after halftime, scoring five points with tree boards. There was no report of an injury. The crowd didn’t really make much noise all night until and alley-oop from Scott to J.D. Weatherspoon got the Buckeyes to 70 points, and therefore free French fries for the fans.
In short, this is the kind of performance that will likely cost the Buckeyes at some point. There may not be this great a lack of energy at any point during the conference schedule, but Ohio State can’t shoot that poorly against good teams that aren’t turning the ball over and are hitting their own shots. The crimes against basketball the Buckeyes committed at the free-throw line absolutely cannot happen in a tight game. Even Sullinger was only 2-5 at the line.
For Pat Knight’s club, Stan Brown and Devon Lamb each scored 10 points, with Mike James chipping in nine more. Anthony Miles wasn’t a factor with two points, nor was Charlie Harper, with two. Brown also grabbed 10 rebounds and Lamb seven. Ohio State’s bench actually outscored Lamar’s, 20-15. A better shooting night may have produced an upset bid, as the Cardinals kept the game within shouting distance and at one point trailed by 14 with Craft, Sullinger and Thomas all on the bench with three fouls.
The Buckeyes are back at it Thursday night against Miami of Ohio at Nationwide Arena in a “home” game.
Notes: Ohio State won its 32nd straight home game…Buford was 1-6 behind the arc and ended the game three points shy of passing Perry Carter for ninth on Ohio State’s all-time scoring list…Thomas scored in double figures for his 11th consecutive game.