Here is what I saw seated in a very subdued Value City Arena.
- Four freshman and Lee: For stretches of both halves Wednesday head coach Thad Matta inserted his four freshman (D'Angelo Russell, Kameron Williams, Jae'sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop) with fifth-year senior Anthony Lee. The coach said that it isn't a deliberate choice, but that unit certainly produced offensively.
"I will say that I like that group," Matta said. "We've run the young guys in practice some against the vets and that always makes for a spirited scrimmage segment of practice."
Staying Hunger: Led mostly by the young players, the Buckeyes showed no sign of letting up after halftime despite their 19-point locker room lead. That seems to be a product of the young guys and deep rotation as those players are hungry for minutes and are in attack-mode when they enter the game no matter the score. The deflections in the zone defense picked up markedly after the break.
Bates-Diop progress:Speaking of the young guys, Bates-Diop played a nice game against the Panthers. His stats (nine points, five rebounds and two assists) won't blow you away, but he looked comfortable playing within the offense. He logged 21 minutes in the blowout, and while the score was out of hand for virtually all of his time on the court, they were valuable minutes for the freshman.
It seems as though fans have been spoiled by the instant impact the other freshman have had, but if Bates-Diop continues to get minutes he may be a contributor by the conference season. Matta pointed to other freshmen he has had, such as William Buford and Evan Turner, who did not look good early in their first season on campus. He's hoping Bates-Diop has a similar transformation to what those stars did.
Tate the emergency point guard? For the second time in a blowout this season, Matta has allowed Tate to run the point while Shannon Scott and Russell sat. It appears that if those two point guards were to get in foul trouble in a contested game, Tate may be called on to handle the ball. Sam Thompson is another option in that regard, and he has been cooling his heels on the bench both times Tate ran things this season.
Kam Williams is fire: Kid can shoot, simple as that. He looks smooth every time he lets it go and I thought each attempt was going in. I was nearly right as the freshman connected on eight of his 10 attempts and four of five from behind the arc. Williams is the best pure shooter on this team when he's on (yes, slightly better than Russell), and the perfect guy to come of the bench and fill it up.