Ohio State kept rolling with a big win against Campbell on Wednesday. As always there were plenty of things to take away from OSU's performance.
Ohio State beat the preposterously named Campbell Camels tonight by a 91-64 score. Here’s what I learned while filling in on Thanksgiving duty for Blake Williams…
Tonight was the type of Marc Loving performance that Ohio State needs in order to help reach its potential. The sophomore looked good all night against the first zone defense the Buckeyes have faced all season. Not only did he finish 5 for 7 from the field with 18 points, but he also got to the line nine times. That’s two more free throws than he’d shot the rest of the season combined. “We have talked to Marc at length about being more aggressive, being more assertive, not taking the plays off in terms of being passive,” Matta said. “I thought tonight he was pretty aggressive in his approach for 40 minutes.”
Loving attributed his performance to what he saw out of the Campbell defense, saying he had to attack the basket against their zone. What he didn’t give credit to was experience. The sophomore forward has put up double-digit point totals in all four games and immediately shook off a question about tonight’s showing coming as a result of increased comfort. “I wouldn’t say I get more comfortable each game, I’ve been pretty comfortable this season,” he said. “I don’t know how much more I can go into that, I’m very comfortable.”
Speaking of the Campbell defense, Loving ripped up the zone in the press conference as much as he did on the court. After the game, Loving was asked to try to identify the defense and, well, laughter ensued. “Really, I don’t think Campbell knows (what defense it played) so I don’t know, either. They were in a man-zone, 3-2, 2-3 and that’s about it,” he said. “They switch a lot so after a couple switches they confused themselves so you just have to take advantage of their confusion because they’ll start arguing with one another. Just take the lane and see what you can do with it.” That comment was broadcasted throughout Value City Arena, and Campbell head coach Kevin McGeehan was none to thrilled when he walked into the postgame press conference. “He doesn't think we practice, I guess,” the second-year coach deadpanned.
Ohio State did a good job of getting to the free throw line, at least in the first half. After averaging about 12 trips to the line in the first three games, OSU came out and earned 13 foul shots in the first half. The Buckeyes couldn’t match that pace in the second half, though, with only six attempts over the final 20 minutes.
Whether they had visions of turkeys dancing in their head or just relaxed after cruising in the first half, the Buckeyes spent the second half trading buckets with Campbell in a completely uninspiring performance. After doubling up Campbell in the first half (45-22), Ohio State only bested the Camels by four points (46-42) in the second half. Matta was willing to chalk that up to a lack of motivation thanks to a big lead. I think, unfortunately, that probably had something to do with it. I didn’t think we had a lot of energy, a lot of juice. I told them at halftime that the biggest thing I was looking for in the second half was clean rebounds and running transition. We got it a couple times but it was never the consistent push that we wanted. You still score 91 points, but I don’t think we played as fast as we wanted.
There will be nights where somebody (usually D’Angelo Russell) gets his, but for the most part this seems to be a balanced team. This game was no exception, as all five starters scored at least 10 points. While it’s the third time in four games that at least five guys have hit double figures for Ohio State, it’s the first time since the beastly 2011 team that all five starters scored 10 or more. That’s exactly what Matta wants out of his guys. “I hope that we can stay with this,” Matta said. “I’ve always said this: the best teams I’ve ever coached had great balance. I think there’s going to be certain nights, as D’Angelo the other night had 32, but we’ve still got to get that low-post game established down there.”
Ohio State needs more out of its big men, especially defensively. There’s no excuse for a team with the roster that Campbell has to get 13 offensive rebounds, especially when OSU could only manage 10. Even factoring in the notion that Campbell obviously had more chances at offensive rebounds… it wasn’t pretty. Amir Williams was subbed out within minutes after starting both halves, and the first time he got the hook came because Campbell corralled four offensive rebounds in the opening stages of the game. Their play against the Camels (finishing with just a 31-26 rebounding edge, was unacceptable and Matta made that clear. “I think that was something we talked about in one of the timeouts, just in terms of owning the paint,” he said. “We were reacting to them, not making them react to us. That’s something we’ve got to continue to get better at, strictly from the standpoint of challenging shots, blocking shots and then going and getting rebounds out of our area. That is going to be something that is going to be addressed.”
There’s not much to learn in a non-conference home schedule like this one, but I think Matta will learn a little bit about his team on Friday against James Madison. It’s understandable to coast to the finish the night before Thanksgiving, but if that sort of incomplete effort shows up two days later for the second game in a row, Matta won’t be very pleased. “I told these guys there’s two types of teams over break – we’re on break right now,” he said “There’s teams that play really, really well because they don’t have a lot to do and there’s teams that become lethargic. I know which team I want us to be.”
The Campbell Camels name is the greatest marriage of university name and nickname in among the 350 or so Division I teams, and I will not be persuaded otherwise. In my travels through the internet it became apparent that no camels live in North Carolina – just one university whose name sounds an awful lot like the humpbacked creatures. That name similarity was clearly good enough for whoever chose the Camels moniker. Incidentally, the poor Camels have not had very good fortune when I’ve been in the press box. In addition to this debacle, the Campbell softball team went 0-5 at the Purple and Gold Challenge at LSU in 2010. Alas.