It's really tough to say who was more anxious for practice to begin-- the fans or the players. Saturday morning was a perfect chance for the two to come together as the Buckeyes opened up the arena for any who wished to attend and watch this year's version of the Ohio State basketball team.
Since Thad Matta arrived at Ohio State, he has preached to his players they need to get better every time out, even if it's just a little at a time. His observations of Saturday's practice seems to accomplish that aspiration.
"One thing I noticed is that we were better than we were on Wednesday. We were not very good on Wednesday," he said. "I give the guys credit, we were off Thursday, came back and practiced really hard on Friday, and I thought we played good today."
"The little things we've still got to get put together," he added.
Matta would like to see the ball screens executed, the ball reversals, the footwork, the help-side defense, and the tidious fundamentals on every play.
The practice ended up being comprised of four sessions. Each session was two teams of seven guys each. One team wearing Red jerseys and the other team wearing White Jerseys.
The scrimmaging lasted just over an hour. Here is a run down of each session, with overall statistics and overall thoughts and observations on what I saw from each player.
Terence Dials 8 PTS, 4 REBS
Ivan Harris 3 PTS, 2 REB
Tony Stockman 5 PTS
Brandon Fuss Cheatham
J.J. Sullinger 2 REB
Matt Terwilliger 3 PTS, 2 REB
Matt Sylvester 3 PTS
Jamar Butler 3 PTS, 2 REB
Matt Marinchick 2 PTS, REB
Ricardo Billings 2 ASST
Observations- The Red team won the session 18-11. I thought the Red team in Group One was the best overall combination of the entire scrimmage. It is hard to imagine with Cheatham, Sullinger, and Stockman on the floor at the same time, and some would take that as a bad sign, but in all honesty they actually played well together.
In this session, the Red showed excellent ball movement. Matt Terwilliger showed early flashes of being able to compete at this level, although he also does need to get stronger. I think he will hold his own.
Ivan Harris made a couple of nice passes and Tony Stockman started off shooting the ball really well. He has a better touch on his shot this season. First impression of J.J. Sullinger is "wow, he's in a lot better shape".
Tony Stockman 5 PTS, 2/2 from the field
Matt Terwilliger 2 PTS
Je'Kel Foster 2 ASST
J.J. Sullinger 5 PTS, 2/2 from the field
Ricardo Billings 2 PTS
Ivan Harris REB, ASST
Matt Marinchick 2 PTS
Observations- The White team won 9-7 as Sullinger was big for the white and Harris did a lot of the little things Matta was looking for.
The biggest thing that stood out in my mind again was Matt Terwilliger showing he could play. He seems to be kind of timid now and again, but he's got some offensive ability.
Je'Kel Foster had several nice looks both on the perimeter and to the interior as far as passing goes. He also played nice defensively. He had great footwork and I caught him helping out on the perimeter on more than one occasion.
Stockman again opted for a coupe of passes to the low post instead of taking a long-range shot he may have fired up a year ago. I was starting to wonder if this was the same Tony Stockman after I saw him flying out of bounds to save a couple of loose balls.
Not only is Sullinger in shape, he plays with a lot of confidence again. That could be a bad thing, but for now, they need it. Matt Marinchick did a great job shutting down Dials in this second session.
Lastly, JJW disapointed me from the standpoint he didnt ever get involved offensively, and missed some shots, but I think he can guard many of the better offensive players in this league.
Tony Stockman 3 PTS, 1/3 3-pt shooting, REB, ASST, STL
Je'Kel Foster 2 PTS, ASST, STL
Matt Sylvester 2 ASST
J.J. Sullinger 4 PTS, 4 REB
Brandon Fuss-Cheatham 3 TO
Ivan Harris 2 PTS, 2 REB
Observations- The Red team won 11-8 as Stockman and Foster played terrific together. Good ball reversals.
I saw Matt Sylvester throw the ball down low to the post players on a couple of occasions he could have taken a shot. For someone I didn't see this from last season, I was happy to see it. Foster seemed to play his best session yet. He really was giving a ton of effort.
Fuss-Cheatham began to look winded, and it showed as he turned the ball over three times. Amazingly, while as the group started to wear down as the game wore on (which is to be expected a week into practice), J.J. Sullinger seemed to not only give more effort, but I think he actually got better as it went on. Last year he was sucking wind in the first half.
My last observation was that Harris fundamentally is a good rebounder... if he becomes more aggressive, look out.
Matt Marinchick 4 PTS, REB
Je'Kel Foster 2 PTS, REB, ASST
J.J. Sullinger 4 PTS, 4 REB
Ronald Lewis 5 PTS
Ivan Harris 2 REB
Brandon Fuss-Cheatham 0/4 shooting
Observations- The Red team won 10-7 as Fuss-Cheatham continued wearing down for the white, missing open shots and just playing more sloppy than he did earlier in the scrimmage. Dials sat most of the session in favor of Terwilliger.
On the positive side, Ronald Lewis got involved a little late and looked pretty good. He's really smooth and played pretty hard.
For the red, Marinchick really played aggressively and although he's got to finish better, he seems to be taking the ball with authority. Sullinger and Foster also played well, again.
The ball movement definitely slowed the final session, as a result of being winded. However, guys were continuing to play hard and hustle the entire time.
PLAYER 2-PT 3-PT FT FG TP REB ASST TO
Brandon Fuss-Cheatham 0-1 0-4 0-2 0-5 0 6 3 3
Jamar Butler 0-0 1-1 0-0 1-1 3 3 0 0
Je'Kel Foster 2-2 0-3 0-0 2-5 4 1 4 0
Tony Stockman 2-2 3-7 0-0 5-9 13 2 1 0
Ugo Nwankwo 0-1 0-1 0-0 0-2 0 1 0 1
Ricardo Billings 1-2 0-2 0-0 1-4 2 2 2 0
Ronald Lewis 1-4 1-2 0-0 2-6 5 2 3 1
J.J. Sullinger 4-7 1-2 2-2 5-9 13 11 0 0
Matt Sylvester 0-4 1-3 0-0 1-7 3 0 2 0
Jermyl Jackson-Wilson 0-2 0-0 0-0 0-2 0 0 0 0
Ivan Harris 1-2 1-2 0-2 2-4 5 6 3 0
Matt Terwilliger 3-3 0-0 1-2 3-3 7 3 0 0
Matt Marinchick 5-10 0-0 0-0 5-10 10 4 0 0
Terence Dials 7-11 0-0 0-3 7-11 14 6 0 0
Brandon Fuss-Cheatham- Got winded more than any single player. Played well early, but missed many shots late. Defense was improved. Won't score a lot, but will need to be solid. GRADE- C-
Jamar Butler- Didn't really contribute much, but he also didn't do anything bad that I saw. He only took one shot, but this biggest thing is that I think he needs to be more aggressive, especially if he's going to be a leader and take over the point guard reins. His one 3-pointer was a deep one, and he did get inside and mix it up picking up a few rebounds. GRADE- C+
Je'Kel Foster- Led the team in assists with four. He played as well of defense as anyone, didn't turn the ball over, and scored four points. He missed the only three outside shots he took, but reportedly that's his strong suit, and he's streaky anyways. He looks like he will definitely contribute. GRADE- B
Tony Stockman- As I mentioned earlier, he didn't look like the same Tony Stockman from last season, that's for sure. He played under control, committed no turnovers, absolutely went crazy going for loose balls, pushed the floor well, didn't take any ill-advised shots and only took one that he even had to think about. With 13 points and a 5-9 shooting performance, he met or exceeded expectations. He even looked decent on defense as he didnt get caught behind many screens. GRADE- A-
Ugo Nwankwo- Nwankwo was a non-factor, but being the only non-scholarship player, you can't expect too much from him anyhow. GRADE- F
Ricardo Bilings- I personally have a lot of expectations invested in Billings, so it was to my disapointment he didn't do a whole lot. He looks like he's as quick as anyone on the floor this season, but basically he just took a couple of bad shots early being too confident, and never really got involved after that. I loved his defense today. GRADE- C
Ronald Lewis- Lewis looked very smooth early on, but I was starting to assume he would be a non-factor. However, the fourth session was enough to boost his grade tremendously as he finished with five points and made a couple of nice steals and also a few real nice passes. GRADE- B-
J.J. Sullinger- What was not to like about this performance? He made most of his shots (5-9), he led the team with 11 rebounds, played improved defense, and probably gave the most effort on the team and was the one player that I could say with complete confidence got better as the game went on. That's not the same Sullinger we saw last year. I still want to see him pass the ball more, and sometimes he still does that double-clutch, but I think that will get better. GRADE- A
Matt Sylvester- Sylvester shot very poorly and I still didn't see too much defensively from him, but the effort was there, moreso than I remember last year. I did see him passing the ball a lot more, and doing so unselfishly. Out of seven shots, I can only recall one bad one or forced shot. GRADE- C+
Jermyl Jackson-Wilson- Today reminds you why freshmen are freshmen. Jackson-Wilson athletically can match up with anyone on the team. He showed the abililty to not only go down low and bang with bigger players, but can step out and face up with guards. Offensively, he missed the few open looks he had. He's not quite comfortable with the ball, but that will come with experience. GRADE- D+
Ivan Harris- I've said for a few weeks that Harris might be the biggest benefactor of Thad Matta's system, and I am thuroughly convinced of that after today. harris scored five points and got six rebounds and looked very comfortable shooting the ball. He also had three assists and turned the ball over zero times. GRADE- B+
Matt Terwilliger- Terwilliger looked like he might be able to come off the bench and score some points if Dials isn't on the floor. That's a very good sign. Defensively, fears of his not being strong enough to defend a stronger post player might be spot on for now. Consistency is key with Terwilliger, but he will definitely hold his own sooner rather than later. GRADE- B-
Matt Marinchick- Marinchick won't be winning any all Big Ten honors this season. He won't even be starting barring an injury, but I'll say this -- he must have worked really hard in the off-season because he looks like he could play some valuable minutes this year in the shape he's in. That's something I didn't expect could happen. He's (in my estimation) 20 pounds lighter and he's got a quicker step to the basket this season. He was playing with a lot of intensity going after rebounds, another thing he hasn't done previously. If you think it's a misprint he had 10 points and four rebounds, it's not. GRADE- B+
Terence Dials- When Dials was playing, he was unstoppable. Of course, what else do you expect from him? The only crticism I had on him was that he seemed to tire a lot towards the end. In any event, he was the leading scorer with 14 points and also grabbed six boards. GRADE- A