Ohio State seems to be an efficient halfcourt offensive team.
Thad Matta discusses win over UNC-Asheville with nod to Keith Hornsby and his famous dad
But the Buckeyes, with their quickness and athleticism, could be a lethal team in an up-and-down game.
Seventh-ranked Ohio State looked very comfortable in just such a game Saturday afternoon, shooting a red hot 59 percent in a 90-72 rout of visiting UNC-Asheville before 15,041 Saturday afternoon at Value City Arena.
"We wanted to score in transition more to have a greater push in the game,” said OSU coach Thad Matta, whose team outscored UNC-Asheville 26-2 in fast break points. “I think the spacing is getting better with our team, and we're getting the ball to the open man a lot better."
Sophomore wing Sam Thompson led the Buckeyes (8-1) with a career-high 18 points. He was 5 of 7 from the field with a three and 7 of 8 at the foul line.
“I was able to get a mid-range game going early on and that really got me going,” Thompson said. “Lenzelle (Smith, Jr.) found me in transition few times and it allowed me to get to the free throw line.”
Deshaun Thomas added 17 points and 10 rebounds. Lenzelle Smith Jr. connected on 7 of 10 shots (including 2 of 3 on threes) for 16 points.
According to Smith, the Buckeyes are practicing with a shortened shot clock to put more pressure on themselves to produce points quicker.
“We didn’t realize how much up and down we could get until we were forced to,” he said. “Now we are trying to get out and run more. We try to keep the shot clock down to 22 seconds.”
Lenzelle Smith Jr., Sam Thompson and Evan Ravenel discuss win over UNC-Asheville
Evan Ravenel had 12 points and seven rebounds as well for OSU. He helped OSU outscore UNC-Asheville 50-28 in the paint.
LaQuinton Ross had eight points. Shannon Scott had another big game with seven points, nine assists and six steals, while Aaron Craft scored six points and dished out eight assists. Scott and Craft played a combined 46 minutes and had an amazing assist-to-turnover ratio of 17-1.
“And the one turnover was a charge on Shannon,” said Matta, whose team had a season-high 25 assists on 36 made baskets.
Matta seemed to have a statement for those who have been down on Craft during his recent shooting slump.
“People talk about how he has scored and he hasn’t shot well and he hasn’t done this or that,” Matta said. “Aaron Craft makes this basketball team go. He has a sense of maturity about him. Everybody else has to come into the circle on that one.”
Since a Nov. 29 loss at No. 2 Duke, the Buckeyes have outscored their last four opponents by an average of just under 30 points per game. This one would have been worse as OSU led by as many as 29 before Matta inserted the reserves and the Bulldogs outscored the Buckeyes 19-8 in the final 5-1/2 minutes.
“That is maturity,” Matta said. “When you take Aaron Craft off the floor, things like that can happen.”
UNC-Asheville guard Keith Hornsby led the Bulldogs (3-7) with 26 points, connecting on 9 of 12 shots including 6 of his 8 three-point attempts.
Evan Ravenel had 12 points, 7 rebounds in first half vs. Bulldogs
“He is a great player and makes his shots,” Smith said. “In the second half we put more defenders on him so he could score 18 points like he did in the first half. “
OSU’s Ravenel could only laugh as Smith tried to explain the defense against Hornsby.
“My man was efficient, 9 of 12?” Ravenel chuckled.
UNC-Asheville only has one starter back from last year’s team that won the Big South and gave top-seeded Syracuse a real test in an NCAA second-round tournament game last March.
“This was a great game for our team and it was at a good time for us to come up here and play Ohio State,” said UNC-Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach. “We look to build our team the entire year and these tough games are a part of what our team does every year. We hope to be good enough each year in our conference to get to the NCAA and when we do, we play teams like this.
“I thought Ohio State came out at the beginning of each half and played the way they could and we didn’t have much of an answer.”
Sure enough, Ohio State led 50-35 at halftime after blistering the nets to the tune of 61.1 percent (22 of 36) in the first 20 minutes. Ravenel led the way with 12 points and seven rebounds, Smith had 11 points and Thomas had 10 points and five rebounds. Meanwhile, Hornsby kept the Bulldogs in it with 18 first-half points by hitting 4 of 5 three-pointers.
The Buckeyes scored on each of their first eight possessions to build a 16-7 lead by the first TV timeout. Smith scored on a rebound, Craft drove for a layup, Thompson stuck a 16-footer off a Craft assist, Ravenel backed his defender in for a layup, Thompson made 3 of 4 free throws, Thomas drained a three from the right corner off a Craft pass and Smith had a driving layup in transition.
The lead went to 21-12 after Thompson had a jam in transition off a Scott pass and Thomas converted a Scott steal and Craft assist into a layup as part of a three-point play.
UNC-Asheville got it down to five at 21-16 after a layup by Will Weeks. But OSU went on a 10-3 run to get some breathing room. This run included a Ravenel bank shot, Smith scoring off a Scott lob on the break, a Ravenel dunk, Ross scoring on a reverse off a Thomas pass and Ross scoring on the break after a Scott assist. OSU led 31-19 with 8:13 left in the half.
Hornsby hit a couple of threes to keep the Bulldogs in contact at 44-33 with 2:51 left in the half. But the Buckeyes scored six straight for a 17-point bulge. This run included a Craft driving layup, a Ravenel jam off a Scott pass on the break and a spinning drive by Thomas to make it 50-33 with 47 seconds left in the half. Hornsby hit a jumper to cap the scoring and cut OSU’s halftime lead to 50-35.
Ravenel had an advantage in the post early on against UNC-Asheville’s 6-8 center Jon Nwannumu.
“We tried to take advantage of that early on,” Ravenel said. “I know that we can do a lot in the post because they did not play their taller player. I had postposition, so my teammates and I attacked.”
The Buckeyes kept the hammer down, going on a 18-5 run to open the second half. Thomas started it with a pair of free throws. Thompson hit a three off a Smith pass, Smith had a layup, Thompson made two free throws, Thompson knifed down the baseline for a layup, Craft had a layup on the break off a Smith pass, Shannon Scott had a steal and nifty layup and Smith hit a three off a Craft assist for a 68-40 lead with 14:13 left in the game.
Thomas hit an 18-footer and made another three off a Scott assist for a 75-49 lead with 10:01 left. Scott hit a three off a Ross pass for a 78-51 lead with 9:28 left.
OSU then went to the aerial show. Thomas pulled down a long defensive rebound and outletted to the acrobatic Thompson, who brought the house down with a windmill dunk to make it 82-53 with 6:49 left. Thompson labeled the dunk a “mini windmill.”
“I didn’t have the space to get the ball all around, but Deshaun made a great pass,” Thompson said. “It helped me to get the crowd into the game and our guys fired up.”
Matta added, "Sam is always great in transition. His speed gets him down the floor and he scored in a variety of ways in this game."
Scott then found 6-11 Amir Williams on an alley oop over a UNC-Asheville defender for an 84-59 lead with 3:58 left.
Trey McDonald’s two free throws put OSU up 88-67 with 1:31 left in the game.
* UNC-Asheville’s Hornsby is the son of popular singer and pianist Bruce Hornsby (from Bruce Hornsby and The Range fame). Bruce Hornsby attended the game and came into Matta’s postgame press conference.
A reporter asked if Matta played in Bruce Hornsby music for his team before the game.
“Ironically, he’s sitting back there in the room – that’s just the way it is,” Matta said in an homage to one of Hornsby’s biggest hits. “The funny thing was we were texting last night and he said, ‘Please let my son score.’ I think we did a very good job of that.
“Ironically – and Keith and I have talked about this – I was at Oak Hill where he went to school. I walked into the gym in the spring of his senior year and I was like, ‘Wow, this kid can play.’ Obviously, we didn’t do a good enough job of preparing our guys to guard him. He is a much better athlete than most people think.
“As a sophomore to come in here and do what he did, that was quite a performance.”
* Thompson eclipsed his previous career high of 13 against Long Beach State. Ravenel matched his career high of 12 set earlier this season against Washington.
* With 1,080 points, Thomas moved up two spots to 42nd on the all-time scoring list at Ohio State. He moved past Carter Scott (1,073) and Scoonie Penn (1,076) in this game. He has been in double figures in all nine games this year. He now has five career double-doubles with two this year.
* Ohio State is now 5-0 all-time against UNC Asheville. The teams first met Dec. 4, 1993, at St. John Arena in Columbus, a 93-59 Ohio State win. The Bulldogs faced the Buckeyes in a 2008 National Invitational Tournament contest March 18, 2008. Coach Thad Matta's Buckeyes earned an 84-66 victory to advance and eventually won the 2008 NIT crown.
Asheville returned to Columbus Nov. 22, 2008, for a regular-season meeting with the Buckeyes. Ohio State, ranked No. 15 nationally, won 83-59. The Buckeyes were ranked No. 2 nationally in the most recent meeting, a 96-49 win at Value City Arena Dec. 21, 2010. Overall, Ohio State now has a record of 14-0 vs. teams representing the Big South Conference.
* Against nonconference opponents, Thad Matta’s OSU teams are a combined 116-21 in his nine years. That includes a record of 75-2 at home against nonconference teams, including wins in their last 38 such games. (The last home nonconference loss was to West Virginia on Dec. 27, 2008.)
His teams are also 190-21 against unranked opponents. Over the last three years, OSU is 60-1 against unranked opponents with the lone loss at Illinois last January (79-74).
* Ohio State owns a 143-12 home record during the Matta era. The Buckeyes are 61-3 in Columbus over the past four seasons.
* The Buckeyes will stay in the Big South and host Winthrop Tuesday night (7 p.m., Big Ten Network). Winthrop (3-4) visits Ohio U. on Saturday. That will be the last tune-up before Ohio State hosts No. 9 Kansas next Saturday (4 p.m., CBS).
* Click here for the box score from OSU/UNC-Asheville.