You probably didn’t see it because it was only available on BTN.com, but Ohio State opened its shooty hoops season with a home game against the Albany Great Danes. Junior guard Aaron Craft led four Buckeyes in double figures with a career high 20 points, hitting 5/7 beyond the arc and leading Ohio State to a season-opening 82-60 win over Albany. Craft also led all players in assists (7) and swoons forced (infinite) in a mostly ho-hum affair against the Great Danes in the dead atmosphere that permeates the Schottenstein Center in these types of lopsided non-conference games. Deshaun Thomas scored 19 points and was the catalyst for a late first half Ohio State run. Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 18 points, most of which came at garbage time, and LaQuinton Ross chipped in 10 points and five rips off the bench. As expected, the Buckeyes handled the Great Danes fairly easily in the end, though it was far from a complete game.
The Buckeyes sleepwalked through much of the first half, getting beat to loose balls and rebounds, and missing a few defensive switches, allowing the Danes to hang around. Mike Black, who scored 20 for Albany, single-handedly kept his team in the game with 14 first half points. His team led 23-22 with 4:44 to play before halftime. Thad Matta had seen enough and called timeout to rip his team. Ohio State responded with a 17-2 run to close the half with a 39-25 lead, effectively killing the game. Though the Danes went on a few mini runs, the Buckeyes played the second half with a comfortable margin of 20+. Sam Thompson played the utility infielder role, filling the stat sheet with a workman like four points, four blocks, five rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Clad in the camouflage uniforms scheduled for Friday night’s canceled Carrier Classic, Ohio State jumped out to an early 5-1 lead on Craft’s first triple of the game and a flush by Smith. Albany stayed right behind mostly on Black’s outstanding work, hitting outside shots and getting to the rim or drawing fouls—and sometimes both. The Danes out-rebounded Ohio State 17-14 in the first 20 minutes, but for a time the disparity was much greater. Neither starter Evan Ravenel nor substitute Amir Williams were particularly effective on the glass, though Ravenel seemed to have more communications issues defensively. Williams was on the floor for the final push that separated the two teams.
Thomas basically took over for the final 4:44 of the first half, scoring nine consecutive points to turn a 23-22 deficit into a 31-23 lead. After Craft hit one of two free throws, Thomas scored four more points and finished the first half with 16. Smith’s triple at the buzzer pushed the score to 39-25. The Buckeyes forced eight Albany turnovers before the break and the Danes shot only 35% (7/20) and a dreadful 20% (2/10) outside the arc. Ohio State hit 14/30 (46.7%) in the first half and hit half (7/14) its threes.
Ohio State started the second half on an 8-2 run and maintained that advantage throughout the rest of the game. Thomas and Craft added bombs in those opening minutes. Tank got to sit and watch much of the second half while Craft eventually took over the team’s scoring lead. Eventually the Buckeyes took over the rebounding advantage, but Albany turned that back around against the reserves in the late going, finishing with a 29-28 edge on the glass, which will no doubt concern Thad Matta. Another concern will be the 46.2% (6/13) at the charity stripe.
To me, the biggest concern will be where points come from outside the “big three” of Craft, Thomas and Smith. Thompson did a lot of things well, but scoring was not one of them, though he hardly looked for his shot. Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams combined for no points, no blocks, and only six rebounds. Trey McDonald came off the bench late and scored two points with one rebound. He seems like the kind of player that will come in and play well when needed. There just seems to be a little more “want to” in his game at this point. Shannon Scott provided nine points, three assists, two steals and a rebound at guard, though he missed two of the more awful free throws you’ll ever see attempted.
The Buckeyes are back in action next Saturday at 5 p.m. when they face Rhode Island in Uncasville, CT. Please note that the game can only be seen by streaming ESPN3. Hooray for early season non-televised games. [rolls eyes so hard.]
Notes: Aaron Craft was somehow held without a steal, and I call bullshit…Thad Matta is 13-0 in season openers as a head coach, with the last nine coming at Ohio State…The Buckeyes are now 1-0 against Albany all-time, and 5-1 against the America East Conference…The Buckeyes are 92-18 in home openers and 88-22 in season openers…Ohio State shot 57.1% (32/56) for the game and hit 60% (12/20) outside the arc.