Morgan State v Ohio State

New season means new role for Ohio State’s Sam Thompson

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The biggest question for Ohio State entering the 2013-14 season was how they’d account for the offensive production lost when Deshaun Thomas made the decision to turn pro. In the Buckeyes’ 89-50 win over Morgan State, five players reached double figures with Lenzelle Smith Jr.’s 18 points leading the way and Shannon Scott scoring a career-high 16.

One of the other Ohio State players to reach double figures was junior wing Sam Thompson, who accounted for 14 points, three rebounds and two blocks in 22 minutes off the bench. The sixth man role is a different one for Thompson, who started every game last season and posted averages of 7.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per contest.

And the new role is one that, according to Bob Baptist of the Columbus Dispatch, doesn’t bother Thompson one bit.

“I said to him, ‘Sam, I think right now at this point in your career, you’re probably playing the best basketball of your life . . . but I’m going to start this lineup, and here’s why,” Matta said.

“He said, ‘Coach, I’ll do whatever I have to do. I’ll bring some energy when I come in,’ and that’s exactly what we need from that position.

“That says a lot about Sam. He wants to win. You see him on the bench and he’s going to crazy for the guys making the plays. And he knows he’s going to play his minutes.”

While Ohio State may not have the one “marquee” scoring option this season, they’ve got multiple guys who are capable of leading the team in scoring on any given night. With that being the case, the understanding and acceptance of roles will be critical if they’re to push Michigan State and Michigan for Big Ten supremacy and improve on last year’s Elite Eight run.

Smith and LaQuinton Ross combined to grab 20 rebounds, with Ross scoring 14 points to go along with his 11 boards (his first career double-double), and Aaron Craft added six boards and six assists despite shooting 1-for-5 from the field. Ohio State will face much tougher competition as the season wears on, but when it comes to what will make them successful (offensive balance, solid defense and rebounding) Saturday’s performance was a good start.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

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“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.