Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
Despite a sluggish start, the Ohio State men’s basketball made easy work of Northern Kentucky on Saturday, 70-43.
It was OSU’s (5-1) first time back on the court following Wednesday’s loss to No.2 Duke, and the Buckeyes likely suffered from a bit of a hangover. Despite playing an over-matched Northern Kentucky squad, OSU’s performance in the first half was marred by missed shots, turnovers and poor efforts on the defensive glass.
Sophomore forward Sam Thompson said that after Wednesday’s loss, the Buckeyes felt as if they were “punched in the mouth.” They still seemed a bit woozy in the early stages of Saturday’s game.
“We opened up the first couple minutes of the game and I don’t think we said a word on defense,” said coach Thad Matta. “We weren’t as cohesive as I wanted us to be today.”
Much like in the Duke game, OSU struggled to hit shots, even the ones that Matta considered to be “good looks.” The Buckeyes connected on 23-of-61 field goals, and made just 7-of-23 3-point attempts.
“We are going to have to put the ball in the basket more moving forward the rest of this season,” Matta said.
Junior guards Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr., and junior forward Deshaun Thomas – OSU’s three leading scorers for the season – all had off-nights offensively. The trio combined to shoot 9-of-32 from the floor for a total of 25 points.
Thomas, OSU’s leading scorer, faced constant pressure and was often double-teamed.
“(We would like to) put six or seven guys on (Thomas) but we’re not allowed to do that,” joked Northern Kentucky (0-5) coach Dave Bezold.
With the defense focused on stopping Thomas, and OSU’s starters struggling, LaQuinton Ross stepped up off the bench in a big way for OSU. The sophomore forward played 29 minutes, scored 22 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, all career-highs.
“Teams are going to play me real tight, play me aggressive, double team,” Thomas said. “It’s important for a guy like (Ross) to come in and step up.”
“Tonight I just got the opportunity so I had to take advantage of it,” added Ross.
OSU returns to action on Dec. 8 against Long Beach State. Start time for the game is scheduled for noon.