Balanced Buckeyes Bounce The Beach

Safe to say, Ohio State is tuning up its defense for the challenges that lie ahead.

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Seventh-ranked OSU held visiting Long Beach State to 31 percent shooting in taking a businesslike 89-55 win over the 49ers Saturday afternoon at Value City Arena.

“Coach Matta wants good defense to be the identity of this team so we do a lot of defensive drills in practice,” said OSU guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. “Right now as a team we’re playing together well on the defensive end of the floor.”

OSU coach Thad Matta also liked his team’s balance as 22 of his team’s 31 field goals were assisted.

“The best teams I’ve coached are the ones that have multiple scoring options,” Matta said. “The ’07 team was a great example of that. Night-to-night, you never knew who would lead you in scoring.”

Deshaun Thomas led Ohio State (6-1) with 18 points and four rebounds. He connected on 7 of 16 shots from the floor and 3 of 8 behind the arc.

“We passed the ball really well and different guys stepped up to hit shots,” Thomas said.

LaQuinton Ross followed up a career-high 22 points against Northern Kentucky last Saturday by scoring 16 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out four assists.

“He needs to focus on all of the little aspects of the game, and to his credit he has done that recently and been very tuned-in in practice and in games,” Matta said. “He is playing his best basketball.”

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Smith added 14 points and nine rebounds, hitting 3 of 4 three-point shots. Sam Thompson added 13 points as all 11 Buckeyes who played scored.

“We are all going to be in foul trouble at some point during the season so it is important to rotate guys in and let them get confidence early in the season,” Smith said of OSU’s bench, which outscored LBSU 37-14. “When we have a lot of guys with confidence we are a scary team.”

Dan Jennings led Long Beach State (3-6) with 13 points and seven rebounds.

“It’s a work in progress and we’ve got a long way to go,” said LBSU coach Dan Monson. “Ohio State is a very good basketball team. I was happy with how hard we fought, but you’re not going to play well until you consistently have the same effort that we had in the first half. The second half was a huge disappointment.

“Defensively they just got into us and frustrated us. (Aaron) Craft is as good of an on-ball defender as anyone in the country. Mike (Caffey) is going to be a good point guard for us, but you have to give all the credit to Aaron.”

Ohio State led 39-25 at halftime, holding LBSU to 30 percent shooting (9 of 30) in the first 20 minutes. Ross had 10 points and Thomas scored eight in the first half.

This was a tight game for the first 10 minutes. LBSU’s Mike Caffey scored inside to cut OSU’s lead to 16-13 with 10:28 left in the first half.

The Buckeyes then reeled off nine straight points to go up 25-13. Thomas hit a three from the top of the key, Trey McDonald and Ross each hit two free throws and Ross hit a baseline jumper in transition to make it 25-13 with 7:49 left in the half.

It was another big game for LaQuinton Ross, who had 16 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists vs. LBSU

Long Beach State got it down to six at 27-21 after a three-pointer by Peter Pappageorge with 5:06 left in the half. The Buckeyes outscored the 49ers 12-4 over the remainder of the half to build their 14-point bulge.

Amir Williams had a layup off a pass from Smith and Thomas hit 1 of 2 free throws. Craft then outletted after a defensive rebound to Sam Thompson. He hit Thomas on the wing and he flipped it out to a charging Craft, who hit a three for a 33-21 lead with 3:57 left in the half.

The Buckeyes scored the last six points of the half with Ross getting a layup off a Thomas rebound and Ross and Williams each making two free throws. The Buckeyes led 39-25 at the intermission.

OSU went on an 11-3 run to start the second half and quickly got the lead out to 50-28. This run included a jumper by Smith, an Evan Ravenel jam off a Smith assist, Thompson scoring inside, Thompson converting a lob by Smith on the alley oop and Thomas hitting a three off a crosscourt pass by Craft.

Thomas hit another three and scored a layup off a Scott pass to make it 58-30 with 15:05 left. Smith hit a three off a Scott pass to make it 62-32 with 14:06 left.

Scott and freshman Amedeo Della Valle followed with threes – each assisted by Ross – for a 68-35 lead with 12:02 left. Thompson canned a three off a Ross assist for a 79-37 lead with 8:45 left.

Walk-on Alex Rogers capped the scoring with a layup with 40 seconds left.

Williams added seven points and three rebounds for OSU. Craft and Della Valle each had five points. McDonald scored four, while Scott had three points and nine assists.

Also Notable

* Five players tied or set career highs in points: Sam Thompson (13), Amir Williams (seven), Amedeo Della Valle (five), Trey McDonald (four), and Alex Rogers (two).

* With 1,041 points, Thomas is currently 47th on the all-time scoring list at Ohio State. He needs 15 points to surpass Ken Johnson and Jamie Skelton.

* Ross had a career-high nine rebounds and was also in double figures for the fourth time in seven games this year.

* When the schedule was released, Long Beach State looked like a quality opponent. Long Beach State went 25-9 last season, winning the Big West regular season and tournament titles and qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. The 49ers lost their NCAA opener to New Mexico 75-68.

Unfortunately for Monson, he lost four of his five starters off that team and the 49ers have struggled mightily so far this season. They came in to Columbus on a two-game losing streak after losses to Fresno State (64-59) and at Syracuse Thursday night (84-53) and are now 0-4 against ranked teams.

* Ohio State won its only previous meeting with Long Beach State on Dec. 26, 1987, at the Lobo Classic in Albuquerque, N.M. OSU won the game 93-86. Against members of the Big West Conference, Ohio State is 8-1 all-time.

* If Monson’s name looks familiar, he was the head coach at Minnesota for part of eight seasons between 1999-2006. He followed Clem Haskins and preceded Tubby Smith with the Gophers. He led Minnesota to one 20-win season and NCAA berth in 2004-05. He was fired after a 2-5 start in 2006-07.

Prior to Minnesota, he was the head coach at Gonzaga for two years and led that team to an NCAA Elite Eight in 1999.

* Against nonconference opponents, Thad Matta’s OSU teams are a combined 114-21 in his nine years. That includes a record of 73-2 at home against nonconference teams. His teams are also 188-21 against unranked opponents. Over the last three years, OSU is 58-1 against unranked opponents with the lone loss at Illinois last January (79-74).

* Ohio State owns a 141-12 home record during the Matta era. The Buckeyes are 59-3 in Columbus over the past four seasons.

* This was the second of an eight-game homestand for the Buckeyes. They will host Savannah State Wednesday (5-4) at 7 p.m. (Big Ten Network).

* Click here for the box score of OSU-LBSU.

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