Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
The Buckeyes lined up to play against a blue and yellow squad Friday, but it certainly wasn’t the opponent whose arrival spurs Buckeye Nation to cross out ‘M’s’ all around campus and jump in a cold lake.
The No. 3 Ohio State basketball team (4-0) matched up with unranked Missouri-Kansas City (2-3) on the eve of the football team’s contest against Michigan and easily dispatched the Kangaroos, 91-45.
“What you saw was guys doing what they’re supposed to do,” OSU coach Thad Matta said after the game. “We’re not closed to being a finished product. I think four games into the season there’s still a lot of role definition and acceptance of those roles.”
OSU football coach Urban Meyer and the team’s seniors addressed the crowd and the Buckeye Nuthouse student section, which was making its first appearance of the season, at halftime, offering some motivational words to a sparsely filled Schottenstein Center.
“We’ve been waiting a year to have a rematch with these guys from the team up north,” said senior linebacker Zach Boren. “We need your help to go out as champions.”
The basketball team has a high-profile game of its own looming, though, and will travel Wednesday to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on No. 5 Duke.
UMKC is obviously not as talented as the Blue Devils, but the Buckeyes’ performance Friday was there most dominant this season, especially on defense.
In the game’s opening seven minutes, OSU forced three turnovers and allowed only three points, while jumping out to a 20-3 lead.
Buckeyes junior forward Deshaun Thomas poured in seven points during that span and finished with 21 for the game in 22 minutes of play. Junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
The blowout allowed coach Thad Matta to spread out the minutes and extend his rotation to 11 players.
“That’s what coach was looking for in the team,” Thomas said of the team’s performance. “We know we got another gear in us. When we were up 20 to 30 we kept our foot on the gas and that’s what we need to do.”
OSU sophomore guard Shannon Scott had perhaps his best statistical game against the Kangaroos.
In the span of 18 seconds Scott accounted for two steals, the first of which led to an easy layup for himself at the other end and, after a pass, the second saw Evan Ravenel throw down a one-handed dunk.
Scott finished with 10 points and a career-high 10 assists, only turning the ball over once.
“I’ve really just calmed down a lot this year,” Scott said. “This year I’m just letting things come to me. I think that’s really helped me out a lot.”
Matta said it was good to see Scott get so involved on both sides of the court.
“I could not be happier for Shannon in terms of him letting go and getting into the flow,” Matta said. “You know having a sixth sense out there. Just the completeness of what he did. He took his talents and put him to use on both ends of the floor.”
One of the biggest cheers of the night came for OSU’s only freshman. With a couple look-a-like wigs in the student section, frizzy-haired guard Amedeo Della Valle connected on the first basket of his young career – much to the crowd’s delight.
The long ball gave OSU a 33-point lead as the home-team carried a 53-18 lead into the break.
Matta pulled most of his starters with more than 10 minutes left to go in the second half as the Buckeyes coasted to the finish line.
Thrice during the second half, the crowd – led by the student section – broke out in a “We Don’t Give a Damn for the Whole State of Michigan” chant.
OSU has four days off before playing Duke at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“That’s going to be a great road test for this basketball team,” Matta said. “I think from the stand point of going into that type of environment I think will be beneficial for us in the long run.”