Bucks Crush Walsh In Exhibition Game

Ohio State head coach Thad Matta admitted two days ago that he wasn't sure if his Buckeyes were ready for its exhibition game against Walsh. Matta's Buckeyes, however, came out strong and blew out the visiting team 95-49.

Thad Matta isn't one for worrying, but the Ohio State head coach couldn't help but be a little uneasy in the days leading into the Buckeyes' Nov. 6 exhibition showdown with Walsh University.

Perhaps it was what he saw out of his youthful team just a week earlier in a scrimmage with Ohio behind closed doors. Or maybe it was because the head coach had yet to come to a decision on his starting lineup.

Either way, Matta didn't mind admitting he wasn't sure if his team would be completely ready for the quickly approaching date with the Cavs.

Then the game happened.

Still with key elements in place from last year's team, Matta relied senior guard William Buford and slimmed-down sophomore big man Jared Sullinger, both of which combined for 32 points, to lead Ohio State to a 95-49 thrashing of Walsh.

"I think we were a little bit better (today) in terms of the things we took and really worked on this week," a more relaxed Matta said in the postgame press conference. "I felt like guys had a sense of this. I thought we were able to execute a little bit better than we did at this time last week."

Keeping his starting lineup a secret until moments before tipoff, Matta gave Lenzelle Smith Jr. the starting nod at shooting guard alongside sophomore Aaron Craft at the point, Buford at small forward, Deshaun Thomas at power forward and Sullinger at center.

Buford quickly put his missed attempt at a buzzer-beater from last year's NCAA Tournament loss to Kentucky behind him, knocking down his first attempt from beyond the arc on the team's first possession before finishing with 17 points and five assists.

On Ohio State's following possession, Sullinger went directly back to what he did best a year ago when grabbing an offensive board off a missed Thomas shot before putting it back in for the score. He finished with 15 points and six rebounds.

"As I said before, this team has a long way to go," Matta said. "But there are pieces to the puzzle that could be pretty good for us."

For the remainder of the game the similarities to last year's team were scarce.

The game went on to feature Sullinger taking multiple shots from beyond 10 feet – including a made 3-point attempt – and a slue of new faces scoring points in a variety of different ways.

"Jared definitely expanded his game," said redshirt junior Evan Ravenel, who grabbed a team-high eight rebounds in 11 minutes in his Buckeye debut. "He could do those things when I met him, but he didn't need to last year. With a different team he expanded his look and it makes us a better team."

An immense contrast to a year ago, Matta played 11 players on his roster for more than 10 minutes and the scoring was spread around.

Sophomore guard Jordan Sibert added 15 points in the contest after making 4-of-5 of his attempts from beyond the arc, doing his best to earn minutes by helping make up for lost 3-point proficiency with the graduation of former sharpshooter Jon Diebler.

After making the start Smith did more of what earned him the spot when scoring six points and grabbing eight rebounds, the latter of which Matta was most impressed with. He also added three assists in 23 minutes on the floor.

"Lenzelle has had a great camp to this point in terms of his energy and his defensive prowess," Matta said. "He has rebounded well. He had eight rebounds today."

After Ohio State's first timeout Matta subbed in freshman point guard Shannon Scott – a player widely expected to make the rotation – but he struggled at moments in his time on the floor early in his career.

Though Scott finished the game with four points and two assists in 20 minutes, the freshman turned the ball over five times in his first game as a Buckeye. Still, Matta expects Scott to calm down, regroup and play a similar role coming off the bench that Craft played a year ago.

"I talked to Shannon at halftime and I told him to just breathe," Matta said after Scott turned the ball over twice, missed both of his shots and committed two fouls in the first half. "He was so uptight. I remember first time I played as a freshman in a game and he needed something to go right for him, but I think he was pressing a little bit. He's been tremendous in practice."

J.D. Weatherspoon added 13 points off the bench in just 11 minutes of action, connecting on 6-of-7 of his shot attempts while also grabbing a rebound.

Freshman Sam Thompson, who Matta said was the most athletic player he ever coached, filled up the box score with nine points of 4-of-4 shooting, five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and four steals, all of which came in only 17 minutes of playing time.

"It was great to be able to rotate so many guys in the game today," Matta said. "I think it was good for them. We were able to get them in there to get them used to playing in front of people."

Ohio State's season-opener is Nov. 12 against Wright State in Value City Arena and whether Matta will stick to his heavy rotation pattern remains to be seen.

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