Thomas’ 22 points fuel No. 7 Ohio State
By RUSTY MILLER
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Deshaun Thomas did most of his damage in the first half. By then, he was just about done, and so was Savannah State.
Thomas scored all but one of his 22 points in the first 20 minutes and No. 7 Ohio State showed its firepower inside and out in beating Savannah State 85-45 on Wednesday night.
“The past couple of games some of the first 3s I took weren’t going in,” Thomas said, referring to slow starts in lopsided wins over Northern Kentucky and Long Beach State. “Now my teammates are getting me open and I was ready to shoot. It just feels good out there, getting in that rhythm, getting the open spots and just knocking them down.”
Savannah State coach Horace Broadnax, a mainstay on the great Georgetown teams of the early 1980s, joked that his players lost track of Thomas.
“I guess we didn’t understand the scouting report on Thomas that he could shoot the basketball because we left him open a lot,” he said.
There were plenty of others who contributed.
LaQuinton Ross added 13 points and tied a career high with nine rebounds, Shannon Scott had a career-best 12 points to go with four steals and three assists and Evan Ravenel chipped in with 11 points and nine rebounds for the Buckeyes (7-1).
Ravenel’s revival was particularly encouraging to the Buckeyes. So far this season they have struggled to replace two-time All-American Jared Sullinger, who left after his sophomore season to jump to the Boston Celtics.
Ravenel, Ohio State’s only senior, along with sophomores Amir Williams and Trey McDonald, have played well in fits and spurts. But all had decent games against the Tigers, with Williams adding six points on a perfect shooting night to go with four rebounds and McDonald didn’t score but had two blocked shots and two rebounds.
The 6-foot-8 Ravenel met with the coaches recently and asked what he needed to do to produce more. Then he went out and did it.
“Playing hard and playing with energy is what I need to do,” he said. “It’s not go shoot a thousand shots, it’s not go do a million ballhandling drills — it’s just playing hard. If I play hard, that’s what happens. That’s the type of player I am.”
The game served as another tuneup for the Buckeyes who are three games into an eight-game homestand that stretches all the way through the Big Ten opener against Nebraska on Jan. 2. They played three of their first five games on the road, including their only loss — a 73-68 loss at No. 2 Duke on Nov. 28.
The next big target game for the Buckeyes is a showdown Dec. 22 against No. 9 Kansas, the team that beat Ohio State 64-62 in the national semifinals last spring.
“As crazy as it sounds, we’re still a relatively young basketball team,” coach Thad Matta said. “The thing that we have been harping on these guys the most is we have to get better. Don’t go back to (yesterday). Hopefully these things are in order and we can continue to progress forward. We’ve played with energy and enthusiasm. Our intensity level has been pretty good.”
Arnold Louis led Savannah State (5-5) with 14 points.
The Tigers came in relying on their stingy defense. They were allowing only 53.0 points a game, with their opponents shooting 37.1 percent from the field.
But the Buckeyes, averaging 78 points, dominated at both ends and scored in transition to pile up a big lead. They hit 10 of 19 shots behind the arc while shooting 48 percent from the field for the game.
The Buckeyes made 7 of 10 3-pointers in the opening half to pull away to an 18-point lead. Thomas led the way, hitting 4 of 6 while scoring an almost effortless 21 points — three more than the Tigers accumulated in the half.
At one point, the Buckeyes had a 15-1 advantage on the boards.
Ahead 5-4, Ohio State held Savannah State without a point for more than 5 minutes while running off nine points in a row. Lenzelle Smith Jr. got it started with a 3, Williams came in and flipped in a hook, Thomas hit a short jumper and Williams added two free throws.
On the heels of that spurt, however, the Buckeyes took off again, scoring 13 of the next 17 points. Thomas tossed in a couple of quick-draw 3s with Ravenel scoring two buckets inside.
Down 42-18 at the break, Savannah State scored seven of the first nine points of the second half but Ohio State started picking up points in transition to stretch the lead, which gradually grew to the final margin.
Scott’s 3 with 12:01 left gave the Buckeyes a 64-31 lead — and also surpassed the most points given up by Savannah State this season. The Tigers gave up 62 points in an 84-62 win over Trinity Baptist. They had limited No. 5 Florida to just 58 points in a 58-40 loss on Nov. 20.
It all came down to the Buckeyes flexing their muscles.
“If we have great pace to our offense things will go well,” Thomas said. “The one thing coach preached before the game was having passion. And we had passion out there.”
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