Coming off a poor shooting game against Kansas and out of a short Christmas break, Ohio State needed to put its best foot forward in its last dress rehearsal before the start of Big Ten play.
LaQuinton Ross had 15 vs. Chicago State
And the 10th-ranked Buckeyes, by and large, did just that. OSU got 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists from Deshaun Thomas and rolled to a 87-44 win over visiting Chicago State Saturday afternoon at Value City Arena.
The Buckeyes (10-2) will open Big Ten play at home against Nebraska on Wednesday night. OSU coach Thad Matta shook up his lineup with sophomore Amir Williams replacing senior Evan Ravenel at center. The Buckeyes also played their first game on the new playing floor at the Schott.
“You have to understand you are going into an 18-game onslaught,” Matta said of the Big Ten season. “You’re trying to win the war and not the battle. There will be ups and downs to the season. You have to keep the focus on yourselves and get better every time you take the court.
“We’ve gotten better as a basketball team. We’re coming. But we had a couple of guys today who weren’t ready to play. Going into what we’re going into, that can’t happen. We never ask our guys to play perfect. But doggone it, you’ve got to be ready to do your job.”
OSU had shot just 31 percent in last week’s 74-66 loss to Kansas. But the struggling Cougars (3-12) were no match for the Buckeyes, who hit 56.9 percent of their shots (33 of 58). After a slow start, OSU ended up 47.1 percent behind the three-point arc (8 of 17).
Thomas, averaging a Big Ten-leading 20.0 points per game coming in, connected on 7 of 13 shots from the floor to lead five Buckeyes in double figures.
LaQuinton Ross came off the bench and added 15 points. Freshman Amedeo Della Valle hit all three of his three-point attempts and finished with 11 points.
Guards Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Aaron Craft rebounded from poor shooting games against Kansas. Smith added 13 points and six rebounds for OSU, while Craft had 10 points and six assists.
Shannon Scott had six points. Ravenel came off the bench with five points and 10 rebounds. Williams had four points and four rebounds in his first start.
Quinton Pippen led Chicago State with 12 points. The Cougars shot 26.5 percent from the floor (13 of 49).
This was a close game for the first 10 minutes. It was tied at 14-14 before OSU grabbed control with a 16-3 run. The Buckeyes closed the half by making 9 of their last 13 shots from the floor and scoring on 10 of their last 11 possessions in going up 37-24 at the break.
Thomas had 12 points and Smith had 11 in the first half for OSU, which ended up 55.2 percent from the floor (16 of 29) in the first half.
“We were a little bit sloppy early on, but I thought we played ourselves out of it,” Matta said. “We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be.”
Ross started OSU’s big run with a spinning layup. Craft then followed suit with a baseline drive for a layup. Thomas whipped a pass inside to Ravenel for a dunk. Thomas then tallied off a rebound. He then found Smith for a layup and Smith returned the favor with a pass to Thomas for a layup. Williams capped the run with a nifty left-handed hook as the Buckeyes surged ahead 30-17 with 2:19 left in the half.
Craft shrugged off his recent shooting woes and hit a three off a Smith assist to make it 32-19. Smith capped the scoring for the half with a jumper with seven seconds left as the Buckeyes led 37-24 at the intermission.
Ohio State opened the second half on a 10-2 binge to push the lead to 21 at 47-26. Williams made 1 of 2 free throws, Sam Thompson hit a jumper, Smith made a baseline jumper, Thomas canned a wide-open three on the secondary break and Craft drove for a layup to put the Buckeyes up 47-26 with 17:22 left. Ross hit a three to make it 51-30 with 12:14 left. Craft completed a three-point play for a 54-32 lead with 10:45 left. A Ross three pushed it to 25 at 57-32 with 10:03 left. Shannon Scott fed Della Valle for a wide-open three that made it 62-34 with 8:55 left.
Della Valle hit another three and Trey McDonald made a hook to push it to 32 at 69-37 with 6:40 left.
Ross and Scott each had transition layups to make it 75-39 with 5:13 left. Scott had a layup and lobbed one to Thompson for an alley oop and an 81-39 lead with 4:04 left.
Della Valle canned another three for an 86-41 lead with 2:12 left.
* Matta said that Williams had simply outplayed Ravenel in practice the last three days to earn the start.
“He had practiced really well and Evan hadn’t,” Matta said. “Evan is the only senior on the team. There is a certain standard I want him to practice at and abide by. I loved the energy he brought off the bench. I thought he played better than he had practiced. And I thought Amir was good as well.”
Williams was happy to get the nod.
“I just tried to be aggressive in there and tried to draw some fouls,” Williams said.
* This was the fourth all-time meeting between Ohio State and Chicago State, all in Columbus and all OSU wins. The teams first met in 1990, a 112-54 win for the ninth-ranked Buckeyes. The Cougars returned to St. John Arena in 1991. Ohio State was ranked No. 4 in that game, a 116-44 victory. Both teams were unranked in the most recent contest in 2005, an 81-52 Ohio State win.
* Against nonconference opponents, Matta’s OSU teams are a combined 118-22 in his nine years. That includes a record of 77-3 at home against nonconference teams. OSU’s 39-game winning streak over nonconference opponents at home was broken with last week’s loss to Kansas.
* Ohio State owns a 145-13 home record during the Matta era. The Buckeyes are 63-4 in Columbus over the past four seasons. As a college head coach, Matta’s teams are a combined 198-19 at home.
* Matta’s teams are also 192-21 against unranked opponents. Over the last three years, OSU is 62-1 against unranked opponents with the lone loss at Illinois last January (79-74).
* OSU wraps an eight-game homestand by opening Big Ten play Jan. 2 against Nebraska (9-4). That game, televised by Big Ten Network, will tip at 6:30 p.m.
* Click here for the box score of OSU-Chicago State.
* NOTE: Due to some technical issues, we will not have postgame videos today.