Savannah State found out what a lot of Ohio State opponents will find out over the course of this season.
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It’s a mistake to leave Deshaun Thomas wide open.
Thomas canned 4 of 6 three-pointers on his way to 21 first-half points. That outburst helped the seventh-ranked Buckeyes get out to a 42-18 halftime lead on their way to an 85-45 win over the Tigers before 13,848 Wednesday night at Value City Arena.
“I thought he took great shots and had a rhythm about him in the shots he was taking,” said OSU coach Thad Matta, whose Buckeyes easily improved to 7-1.
Thomas ended up with a game-high 22 points for the Buckeyes. He hit on 8 of 17 shots from the floor, including 4 of 8 from behind the arc. He also grabbed seven rebounds. He admitted it can be hard to maintain poise in a laugher.
“Coach talked about having a passion for the game,” Thomas said. “We had passion for some moments out there and really stuck together.
“My teammates were getting me the ball. I was ready to shoot and I was knocking them down.”
After a scoreless first half, LaQuinton Ross came alive with 13 points in the second half. He also grabbed nine rebounds and dished out three assists
Backup point guard Shannon Scott had 12 points to go with four steals and three assists.
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“We were able to attack their pressure and make some plays,” said Scott, who hit all three of his field goal attempts (including two threes) and was also 4 of 5 at the foul line. “The coaches have talked to me about being more aggressive and I have been working on that.”
Center Evan Ravenel chipped in 11 points and nine rebounds. According to Ravenel, the coaching staff met with him and asked him to bring more energy. It showed in his play as he got on the floor for loose balls and was taking charges as well.
“I have to play with energy,” said Ravenel, OSU’s lone senior. “If I play with energy, I get the output I had like today.”
Sam Thompson added nine points and six rebounds for the Buckeyes. Lenzelle Smith Jr. hit both of his three-point tries and had eight points. Amir Williams had six points and four rebounds.
Arnold Louis led Savannah State (5-5) with 14 points. The Tigers came in averaging just 54.1 points per game (334th nationally in that category) and had not allowed any of its previous nine opponents to score more than 62 points.
But OSU dominated SSU 48-21 on the boards. The Tigers were 1 for 10 on threes and also committed 20 turnovers in the rout.
“They were just more athletic,” said SSU coach Horace Broadnax. “We were in position sometimes, but they pushed us up under the basket.”
Since a Nov. 28 loss at Duke, Ohio State has won three straight home games over outmatched opponents by an average of nearly 34 points a game. But Matta likes the gradual progress his team is making.
Aaron Craft had 6 assists vs. Savannah State
“We’re still a relatively young basketball team,” the coach said. “We have one freshman and one senior. The thing that we have been harping on these guys the most is that we have to get better. Hopefully we can continue to progress forward. We played with energy and enthusiasm. Our intensity level has been pretty good in these last few games.”
The Buckeyes broke the game open early with an 18-3 run after holding a 5-4 lead. Smith had a three, Williams had a hook off a Thomas assist, Thomas hit a 12-foot jumper, Williams made a pair of free throws and Smith canned a three off a Ross pass in transition. Ross then dug out a steal at the defensive end. He got it out to Scott, who found Thomas for a three on the secondary break.
Moments later, Thomas hit another three. This one was set up as Aaron Craft penetrated, flipped it out to Smith on the wing and he reversed it to the wide open Thomas. That three made it 23-7 with 8:33 left in the half.
The Buckeyes then went to work on the offensive boards. Ravenel rammed home a Smith miss and Thomas did the same with a Craft miss for a 29-13 lead with 4:46 left in the half.
Ohio State closed the half on a 13-3 barrage. Scott made 1 of 2 free throws. Thomas then had a steal. He laid it off to Scott, who found him for the wide open three at the other end. Thomas then rebounded his own miss, put it back, was fouled and made the free throw. He then hit a three off a Craft pass in transition. Scott capped the half with a jumper with five seconds left, sending the Buckeyes in up 42-18 at the half.
Savannah State outscored OSU 7-2 to open the second half, trimming the gap to 44-25 with 17:43 left.
But the Buckeyes responded by scoring 20 of the game’s next 26 points to quell the rally. This run began with a layup by Ravenel and also included a jam by Thompson, a driving layup by Thompson, a tip-in by Williams, a Scott three off a Thomas assist, a three-point play by Ross, a Ross three off a Scott and, finally, a three-point play by Scott to make it 64-31 with 12:01 left in the game.
Craft lobbed it in to Thompson on an inbounds play for a jam that made it 72-39 with 7:53 left. Ross had a layup and completed a three-point play to make it 78-39 with 6:03 left. The lead hit 40 at 81-41 as Craft found freshman Amedeo Della Valle for a three with 4:32 left.
Walk-on Jake Lorbach, a 6-7 sophomore from Lakewood St. Edward, saw his first game action for Ohio State in the final minute. He made 1 of 2 free throws for a 85-43 lead with 45 seconds left.
* This was another tough game for Craft, who was scoreless after going 0 for 4 from the field. He did have six assists, though.
“I’ll be honest with you, I’ve got no problems with Aaron,” Matta said. “I don’t know if as a coach you ever have a more secure feeling knowing he is out there. Yeah, I want him to score more, he wants to score more and our team will probably need him to score more. But that’s going to come back for him. There is no doubt in my mind.
“He’d shot the ball effectively the last couple of days in practice. Hopefully he will get that going on Saturday.”
* With 1,063 points, Thomas is currently 44th on the all-time scoring list at Ohio State. He needs 11 points to surpass Carter Scott for 43rd. He has been in double figures in all eight games this year.
* Ross tied his career high with nine rebounds. He scored in double figures for the third straight game and fifth time this year. Over these last three games, he is averaging 16.3 points and 8.7 rebounds.
* Scott’s 12-point game was a career high.
“With Shannon, I love the way he is playing,” Matta said.
* The Buckeyes owned a 26-6 advantage in second-chance points and a 20-6 edge in fast break points.
* This was the first meeting ever between Ohio State and Savannah State. OSU is now 16-0 all-time against MEAC opponents.
* Against nonconference opponents, Thad Matta’s OSU teams are a combined 115-21 in his nine years. That includes a record of 74-2 at home against nonconference teams, including wins in their last 37 such games. (Matta’s two home nonconference losses were to No. 1 North Carolina in 2007 and West Virginia in 2008.)
His teams are also 189-21 against unranked opponents. Over the last three years, OSU is 59-1 against unranked opponents with the lone loss at Illinois last January (79-74)
* Ohio State owns a 142-12 home record during the Matta era. The Buckeyes are 59-3 in Columbus over the past four seasons. Those three losses were to Purdue in 2010 and to Michigan State and Wisconsin in 2012. OSU is now 5-0 at home this season.
* The Buckeyes move on to the fourth game in an eight-game homestand as they host UNC-Asheville (2-6) on Saturday (noon, Big Ten Network).
* Click here for the box score of OSU-SSU.
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