The Buckeye Basketball team took the floor for the first time this season to face the Walsh Cavalier’s from the NAIA. Under the color commentary of former Buckeye Matt Sylvester, the Buckeyes dispatched the Cavaliers 102-56. Jared Sullinger was clearly the player of the game putting up a double double including 21 points and 10 rebounds.
The starting lineup for the game went Dallas Lauderdale, William Buford, David Lighty, Jared Sullinger, and Jon Diebler. We were told early that the starters for this one would not be the starting lineup for the season. Given what we saw on the court today, I might have a guess as to why.
Jared Sullinger took his first shot in a Buckeye uniform which came up short. His second attempt was much better as he backed his defender up to the basket and finished the hook shot while drawing the foul. After that, the first shot of the game, Sullinger’s role on the team became fairly quiet and we didn’t hear about him again until later in the half.
Walsh started the game out by taking it to the Buckeyes. The Cavalier’s hit their first two baskets, one of which was a three, to keep pace with the Buckeyes. On their end, the Buckeyes seemed to be toying around with their offensive sets. There wasn’t a lot of focus on any particular goal for the offense other than to simply look for an easy basket. Given the opponent and the Buckeye’s weapons, the strategy may not have been too surprising. However, it gave an almost sloppy look to their play and led to a couple ill-advised baskets.
After the first break, Aaron Craft (#4) entered the game in place of Dallas Lauderdale. Craft’s first minutes included finding an open Diebler for three, but also drew a blocking foul on his first defensive set. He made up for it quickly as he got into the passing lane for a steal which he converted into a layup on the other end. He also managed to drain a three pointer of his own.
Also on the court was Deshaun Thomas (#1) who came in for David Lighty. He didn’t produce much in his first few minutes, but his presence on the court definitely seemed to give the Buckeyes a little bit of a different defensive look. However, he did not manage to get the ball much at all on the offensive end, though it was hard to tell if that had more to do with the defense, or more to do with him simply not being in a position to be found by the ball carrier.
Jordan Sibert (#2) managed to get on to the court in place of Jon Diebler. That was not surprising considering their similar skill sets. Unfortunately, Sibert was unable to make anything happen for his first few minutes on the court and was essentially overshadowed by his other teammates.
Walsh continued some good play on the offensive end. Lamar Skeeter and Jeremy Shardo both provided some excellent shots, including a couple three pointers, to keep Walsh from getting completely swamped by the Buckeyes overall scoring presence.
Surprisingly, Jared Sullinger’s (#0) name wasn’t called much early on. Walsh seemed to have come prepared for the Buckeye’s big man and were double or even triple teaming him to try to keep him from scoring. Once the Buckeyes had realized the strategy, they quickly switched to their outside scoring threats with Diebler, Buford, Lighty and Craft all raining in points from the outside.
Late in the first half, the Buckeyes went with a nearly all freshman lineup with Buford teamed with Sibert, Sullinger, J.D. Weatherspoon (#15) and Thomas, though Sibert was quickly replaced with Diebler. The lineup didn’t last long as they seemed like they weren’t able to really get things on either ends of the glass.
The Buckeyes subbed liberally through the entire game. It was the complete antithesis of last season as 9 separate Buckeyes saw the court in the first half. It was apparent that Matta was trying to play games with his available talent and seeing which lineups worked best. Several different Bucks brought the ball up the court, but Buford and Craft were the two primary ball handlers.
Sullinger is clearly a raw talent. He is an extremely good player, though it’s obvious that he still has plenty to learn. He’s an absolute beast to have to guard down low and it was clear that Walsh didn’t have the ability to do so. Sullinger single-handedly drew 3 fouls on Walsh players in the first half – scoring baskets through all three of the fouls. Unfortunately, he was only able to convert one of those free-throws. With how often other teams are going to be fouling him, he likely needs to spend some time on his free-throw shooting.
One big plus to both Sullinger and Thomas is that they are both prolific rebounders. Very few missed baskets seemed to bounce into the hands of Walsh while those two were in the game. Given that the Buckeyes lost several games last year being entirely unable to rebound the ball, this will be a big help to Ohio State this season.
Craft is also a raw talent, but has a fantastic court vision for such a young point guard. He seems to just have a sixth sense for who is open, or who is hot and should have the ball in their hands. Keep your eyes on this one, because he’s got the early makings of a very good floor general. He needs to get better about his pass timing and pass selection, but he’s got pretty good decision making for one so young. Sylvester commented, and I agree, that his career as a high school quarterback has probably helped in giving him such down-court vision.
The first half went basically as you would expect for the Buckeyes matched up against an overmatched Walsh team. The Buckeyes secured a 55-30 lead in the first half on the strength of scoring from both the veterens and the freshmen. The Buckeyes shot lights out from the floor and gave the Cavaliers no chance to even put up a fight.
The second half began much the way the first ended. The Buckeyes came out of the gate hot and outscored Walsh 19- ovver the first couple stanzas of the period. Walsh simply could not find an answer for anything the Buckeyes wanted to do, even when they switched from man defense to 2-3 zone to try to slow down the Ohio Stat offense. The Bucks quickly adjusted and found the open looks.
Sullinger made a play that Jay was particularly interested in seeing. Sullinger found himself with the ball down low in the paint, but with no available shooting option being closely guarded. Sullinger saw Lauderdale closer to the basket open with no defender, dished the ball to Dallas who slammed home the easy bucket. Seeing Sullinger put up an assist was important for this team. If Sullinger has the the desire to feed his teammates whenever he can, this team will be even more dangerous.
Another factor making this team more dangerous is David Lighty’s jump shot. Lighty worked on his shot all last season and showed on more than a few occasions that he could be a prolific scorer. This season it looks like his shot is even better than the end of last season, having another player capable of draining long range buckets will only make life easier for Matta.
It is clear through their play that the only things this team cares about is winning. Everybody on the court helps out everybody else. They constantly try to find the open man and don’t seem to try to force anything if they can avoid it. The players also communicate with each other on the floor and help each other out. When Deshaun Thomas committed a blocking foul, Aaron Craft took him aside and explained what he did wrong. That’s the sign of a future leader as he tries to help his team get better.
I foresee Craft joining the starting 5 sometime before the start of Big Ten play, and possibly even earlier than that. Craft is too good not to see the court, and putting him in frees Buford and Lighty up to play more towards their strengths off the ball. #4 will definitely fill the true point guard spot that we’ve been missing for so long.
After all this discussion about Sullinger being a raw talent, you might think that he had a rough first game. With 5 minutes left in the game, Sullinger had scored 19 points, leading the Buckeyes in scoring. That sort of scoring should surprise you as much as it did me. It was the most quiet 19 points I’ve seen in a long time. If that’s a slow night for Sullinger, we’re in for some very good things. Several other Buckeyes broke into double digits, including Aaron Craft who scored 10.
Full stats will be posted later, as soon as the official stat chart is posted by the university.
The Buckeyes will next face North Carolina A&T on Friday, November 12th at 7:00pm. You’ll be able to see that game on the Big Ten Network.