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.