As I said in my preview, Winthrop was not going to come into Value City Arena feeling like they didn’t have a shot. The Eagles just came off a one-point upset of Ohio University and were most likely feeling on top of the world. After a dismal first half, plus a dismal, and quite boring, first six minutes in the second half full of lead changes, ties and so many missed shots on both sides of the ball, No. 7 Ohio State (9-1) was able to outlast the rebuilding Eagles (4-5) 65-55. While some may have hoped for a little more momentum for the final game before Kansas comes to town. The Buckeyes looked like they had other things on their mind.
Despite a spotty performance, Deshaun Thomas led the team when it was needed most to etch out a win, finishing with 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Lenzelle Smith Jr., also scored in double digits with 14, and Shannon Scott and Aaron Craft ended the night with six and five rebounds, respectively. Derrick Henry led the Eagles with 12 points and four assists.
A good way to describe that first half of play is: miss, rebound, miss, block, miss, rebound, steal, OOHH Layup!, miss. Not necessarily in that order, but you get the gist of things. Thomas started things off right with a quick jumper, followed by a Winthrop team foul and then a three by Thomas. Five minutes later, Larry Brown got Winthrop on the board with two but was fouled a few plays later, taking Evan Ravanel to the free throw line. Ravanel went 1-2 to further the lead to 6-2, and then 9-2 soon after with a Smith and one. Following that, Winthrop woke up. Thomas started missing what would normally easy three’s and the Eagles took full advantage with a baseline jumper by Steve Johnson and an Andre Smith three followed by a fiery, and oh so swoony, long three well behind the baseline from Craft.
After three minutes of no points, a stagnant 12-12 tie and six missed shots buy Thomas, Winthrop’s James Bourne and Lenzelle Smith got things rolling with back-to-back points. Winthrop was not done yet. They went on to score five unanswered points for a 19-14 lead. The Buckeyes came back, but the game was essentially tie for the remainder of the half, until Smith and LaQuinton Ross nailed back-to-back three’s to go up 31-25. Once again, Winthrop wasn’t going down easy. Christian Farmer made a three off an Andre Smith assist and then Henry followed with an easy layup. The game was tie 31-30 at the half.
The Buckeyes only scored three points in the first half, just a couple days after scoring a season-high 26. With its lack of focus, Ohio State and Winthrop’s stat line was nearly identical, with the exception of free throws. Winthrop was only 1 for 4 at the free throw line while Ohio State was 7 for 9.
By the second half, it seemed the Buckeyes got a little momentum back, but they were still struggling and would struggle with three’s the rest of the night. Henry made an early jumper to put Winthrop back on top, but Sam Thompson answered with a sky high dunk off an offensive rebound from a missed Lenzelle Smith three. In terms of action, that was it again for the first part of the second half. Both teams stayed within a few points of each other and continued to play sluggish. Until Thomas woke up.
With 14 minutes to play, after missing nine straight, he went on to make six straight, including back-to-back jumpers, threes and a pair of free throws. His three’s alone were enough to pull the Buckeyes up by six, but the Eagles were not out of it yet. Gideon Gamble and Henry also nailed a pair of three’s, but the team’s foul trouble continued. Craft, Amir Williams and Thomas each made a pair, and Winthrop wasn’t going to be able to keep up, down by as much as 15 with three minutes left. Despite an almost costly foul on Ravanel, the Buckeyes came away with the win.
While one doesn’t want to jump to conclusions about tonight’s performance indicating what’s to come Saturday, we can all infer that Thad Matta was probably not pleased about what happened on the court tonight. The Buckeyes have to keep up the tempo and stay consistent in their shooting if they want to stay ahead of the Jayhawks, who have now beat Ohio State twice in the last year and 12 days. This game takes place at 4 p.m. on CBS.