One year later, following a non-game debacle on an aircraft carrier in Charleston, South Carolina, the 10th-ranked Buckeyes and 17th-ranked Golden Eagles finally got together to play some basketball. I’d be lying to you if I said that this game was some kind of classic game. In fact, it was ugly, and that’s coming from someone who sat through the Cavs-Bobcats game in person on Friday night! Two coaches and two teams that pride themselves on scrappy, defensive play and athleticism don’t always have good shooting to accompany that. The Buckeyes grabbed the win by a 52-35 margin as the two teams combined to score the fewest number of first half points this season in college basketball. Here are some thoughts on the Bucks’ key early season victory.
-When I first saw that Thad Matta chose to start both Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott in the backcourt to begin the season, I was confused and didn’t necessarily agree with the decision. First, it makes the Buckeye starting five incredibly small with the 6’2″ Craft, 6’3″ Scott, and the 6’4″ Lenzelle Smith Jr. sliding over to play the three spot. But, as it is, Sam Thompson comes off the bench as a super sixth man. But, you see why Matta likes this setup for defensive purposes.
-There isn’t a better defensively sound backcourt than Craft and Scott, and the dual point guard look is going to be used enough as it is because those points are part of two of the best five players on the roster. Scott was phenomenal today, scoring 13 points and swiping 5 steals in just 21 minutes. He was 6-of-12 from the field, which including 0-for-5 from three point range. He still can’t shoot, but he can drive and score in transition. He needs to focus on that. Craft posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists and shot 5-of-9 from the field.
-LaQuinton Ross is supposed to be the most dynamic scorer on this team. He went scoreless in this afternoon’s game, missing all six shots he took. I’m a little concerned about his consistency this season. Ross gave the Bucks a much-needed boost in some key spurts of the tournament last season, but he lacks heavy minutes experience. He’s a very green junior after missing all of his freshman season in effect and moving in and out of the rotation last season. I expect him to have a couple of 20 point performances and then follow them up with games like today.
-Let’s talk about the Bucks’ defense, which was just so good and scrappy, though I’ll readily admit that Marquette’s offense was just dreadful any way you slice it. The Golden Eagles shot just 19% (10 for 53) in the game, including 1-for-18 from three point distance. There was a span in the second half where Marquette failed to score a field goal for over twelve minutes, and they had 20 turnovers. The Buckeyes chip the ball out in the post and on dribble penetration better than any team around the country.
-As you’ve heard me talk about before, the limiting factor for this team (it only gets worse without Deshaun Thomas) is finding consistent scoring. Aaron Craft is the only guy who consistently show a desire to take anyone off the dribble, and even that’s not a given. The team’s best offense will continue to be fueled by their defense in transition. Thad Matta has assembled a bunch of athletic guys that can defend really well. The team can’t shoot the three very well at all either, outside of the streaky Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross. They were 3-of-18 on the day, with one each coming from freshman Mark Loving, Smith Jr., and Thompson.
-My only real beef outside of that was the 5-of-15 from the charity stripe. Take out Sam Thompson’s 4-of-4, and the team made 1-of-11. When your starting backcourt struggles to make free throws, that’s a killer in end game opportunities. With as many shots as Marquette missed, you’re bound to give up more offensive rebounds, but 18 is a few too many for my liking. Amir Williams and Trey McDonald need to continue to improve their defensive rebounding.
-The Buckeyes next real challenge comes December 4th against Maryland in the B1G-ACC challenge1. Until then, they get plump on some cupcakes, starting with American on Wednesday. Notre Dame, four days before Christmas, is their other big non-conference game. It’s not quite the slate of recent years.
(Photo: Jim Prisching/AP)
- More like the B1G-B1G challenge! [↩]