If Thursday’s game was a sign of things to come, we may be watching the last few games of Deshaun Thomas’ Buckeye career before a jump to the NBA.
The sophomore forward poured in 31 points – a career high – and grabbed 12 rebounds en route to leading Ohio State to a 78-59 victory over Loyola (Md) in the round of 64. Thomas was critical, since Jared Sullinger struggled offensively with a 4-14 shooting night against a smaller Greyhound team.
The outcome was never really in doubt, but the Bucks had some trouble pulling away from the pesky Greyhounds. Thad Matta could not have been pleased that he had to re-enter the starting lineup late in the game because things were tightening up.
Outside of Thomas’ performance, the rebounding from the Buckeyes was especially encouraging. The Scarlet and Gray out-rebounded the Greyhounds 45-23, led by Thomas’ twelve, Sully’s ten, and Lenzelle Smith’s eight.
Shannon Scott also provided a lift for the Bucks, even though he didn’t exactly put up spectacular numbers. The backup point guard played significant minutes and handled the Greyhound pressure effectively when the game was still up for grabs.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to read much into the first game. Clearly, the Buckeyes are athletically and physically superior to Loyola, but it would have been nice for Matta’s bunch to put the game away a little earlier. If it wasn’t for a significant free throw advantage in the first half and a career performance from Deshaun, it certainly would have been a little closer.
Still, it’s all about surviving and advancing in March. And a double digit win is a double digit win, so I’m not complaining.
Next up for the Bucks is Gonzaga, who absolutely manhandled Bob Huggins’ West Virginia squad. It will definitely be a step up in competition level, but Loyola was a good practice run for the kind of pressure that the Zags will want to bring. If Craft can stay out of foul trouble, he should be able to methodically handle the press and get the ball in the hands of the scorers.
In other tournament news from the first full day, my bracket is completely busted. But you don’t care about that. Syracuse somehow found a way to convince the NCAA to allow its assistant coaching staff to officiate the Orange’s game against UNC Asheville. Were it not for some incredibly questionable (read atrocious) calls, we may have witnessed the first ever 16 seed over one, in the Buckeyes’ bracket no less.
VCU picked up right where they left off last year and provided the field with the tournament’s biggest upset to date. Kentucky looked the part of the number one seed, the defending champs UConn are out, and the Big Ten easily dispatched of its three opponents (the Buckeyes, Indiana crushing New Mexico State, and Wisconsin over Montana).
It’s on to the next round for Ohio State, so take Friday to relax and enjoy the Bobcats showing Michigan who the real Ohio University actually is. See you Saturday.