Buckeyes Claim Tip-Off Title Game

Ohio State picked up some hardware Sunday night as the fourth-ranked Buckeyes took a solid 77-66 win over Washington in the championship game of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn.

Deshaun Thomas

The win capped a weekend where OSU (3-0) also defeated Rhode Island 69-58 in a semifinal on Saturday.

“This has been a great experience for this basketball team from the standpoint that I don’t think we played particularly well last night, even if we played well enough to win,” said OSU coach Thad Matta. “We came in here today and played a very talented team in Washington on a neutral floor. This was a good thing for us.

“This was a short turnaround. We didn’t even know who we were playing until 9:30 last night. We called the guys down and showed them some film (on Washington). I’m happy for our guys.”

Preseason All-American Deshaun Thomas equaled his career high with 31 points and eight rebounds. Thomas came out of the gate strong, hitting his first seven shots from the floor and 9 of his first 10 on his way to 21 first-half points.

Thomas ended up 12 of 21 from the floor, including 3 of 7 from behind the three-point arc, and 4 of 5 at the foul line.

“He was rolling for us with his buckets,” Matta said. “With him making those shots, the rim probably looked as big as the ocean to him because they were all going in.”

Thomas, who also had four assists, is averaging 25 points and seven rebounds in his first three games so far this season.

Aaron Craft added 18 points and four assists, hitting all eight of his free throw attempts. Evan Ravenel had 12 points and four rebounds.

Amir Williams came off the bench to add five points and four rebounds. LaQuinton Ross and Shannon Scott each had four points, while Sam Thompson scored three. Starting guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. was held scoreless, going 0-for-5 from the field.

The Buckeyes were 20 of 26 (76.9 percent) at the foul line and only committed six turnovers.

C.J. Wilcox led Washington (2-2) with 18 points, while fellow guard Abdul Gaddy had 15 points and Scottt Suggs scored 11. The Huskies won the regular season Pac-12 championship last year.

Matta was glad to see his team outrebound Washington 30-24.

“That’s what this team has to do,” Matta said. “With the size Washington has out there, they are big at every position. I thought our guys did a good job of getting inside, getting position and getting the ball.”

Thomas was on fire to start the game as he scored in a number of different ways.

During his 7-for-7 start, he hit a three off a Craft assist, canned a hook, hit a pull-up jumper from the wing, scored on a rebound, made another hook, hit a baseline jumper and finally scored off an assist from Smith. OSU led 19-18 with 11:59 left in the first half.

“It was huge that (Thomas) was scoring like that,” Matta said. “At one point, I turned to the bench and I said the score is going to be 130-129 if we don’t start guarding them. It was 19-18 and we came out of a timeout. I told our guys we had to get some consecutive stops. We got them and we were able to extend our lead.

An 11-2 run gave the Buckeyes some breathing room. Ravenel had two free throws, Craft had a layup, Thomas hit a three off a Craft pass and Craft drove for a left-handed layup against Washington’s 7-foot big man Aziz N’Diaye. OSU led 28-20 with 6:47 left in the half.

The lead went to nine at 31-22 after Thomas hit a three from the top off a Craft assist. UW cut the gap to six at 37-31, but Craft had a steal for a layup and Ravenel made a turning bank shot off a Thomas assist and the Buckeyes led 41-31 at the break.

Wilcox and Gaddy hit back-to-back threes to get the lead down to five at 44-39 with 17:29 left. But OSU surged again with Thomas completing a three-point play off an offensive rebound, Thomas getting a reverse off a smart upcourt pass from Smith and Thomas feeding Williams for a layup. He was fouled as well and his free throw made it 52-39 with 15:32 left.

Wilcox made a pair of threes 35 seconds apart as UW got it back down to seven at 63-56 with 7:25 left.

But OSU went on a 12-2 run to grab its largest lead at 17 points and basically put it away. Ravenel and Craft each had four points in this run. Ravenel’s layup off a Scott pass made it 75-58 with 2:52 left.

Also Notable

* Thomas had 31 points previously in OSU’s NCAA opener against Loyola (Md.) last March.

* Washington still leads the all-time series 8-4, although the schools had not played since 1972.

* OSU is 42-5 in November in Matta’s nine-year stint with the Buckeyes.

* OSU returns home to host Missouri-Kansas City at 6 p.m. Friday. That game, which will be televised by Big Ten Network, will be OSU’s last tune-up before the Nov. 28 game at ninth-rated Duke.

* Click here for the box score for OSU-Washington.

And click here for our story on the news that Matta received a verbal on Sunday from 2014 national top-30 prospect Keita Bates-Diop from Illinois.

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