In a season that’s been defined by an excess of fouls that stems from an effort to increase the amount of scoring that we see on a nightly basis in college hoops, it was somewhat refreshing to see a good old-fashioned defensive slug-fest on Saturday afternoon.
No. 10 Ohio State held No. 17 Marquette to 18.9% (10-53) shooting from the floor, a 1-for-18 performance from three and forced 20 turnovers en route to a 52-35 demolition of the Golden Eagles in Milwaukee. The final score simply does not do justice to the level of dominance portrayed by Thad Matta’s club in the final 20 minutes. Marquette went 12 minutes without a field goal in the second half, which is not a good way to go about getting a win.
Much of that can be pinned on Marquette, as they got a ton of minutes out of Derrick Wilson and Jake Thomas, two role-playing guards that don’t provide much of an offensive threat. That forced the Golden Eagles to rely on the unreliable Todd Mayo for a perimeter scoring punch. Mayo went 3-for-15 from the floor and played an all-around horrendous offensive game.
Why didn’t Buzz Williams give more minutes to his talented freshmen class? JuJuan Johnson and John Dawson didn’t see the floor. Deonte Burton barely got off the bench.
But credit must be given where credit is due, and there is no way around the fact that the Buckeyes simply played suffocating defense. That should not come as a surprise to you, either. Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are two of the best perimeter defenders in the country. There’s simply no disputing that fact. Lenzelle Smith certainly is no slouch on the defensive side of the ball, and Sam Thompson’s length and athleticism will give opposing wings nightmares.
We expected this, however. We knew heading into the season that the Buckeyes were going to be able to play stifling defense. The question marks were on the offensive end of the floor, and based on what we saw out of this group this afternoon, Ohio State fans should feel quite confident.
When Ohio State took over in the second half, it was because Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson, and to a lesser extent Aaron Craft, got it going offensively. Scott provided the spark with a couple of buckets in transition before finding a few lanes to penetrate in Marquette’s halfcourt defense. Thompson continued the run with a series of perimeter jumpers and baskets slashing to the paint. Craft was typical Aaron Craft, finishing with 10 points and 10 assists to go along with seven rebounds.
All told, Scott, Thompson and Craft finished with 38 points and 14 assists while shooting 15-for-31 from the field. It’s not overwhelming offensive production, but it’s good enough given Ohio State’s ability on the defensive end of the floor. It becomes all the more impressive when you consider that: A) Marquette is traditionally a tough, physical defensive teams; B) the games was played at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee; and C) it came in a game where LaQuinton Ross, the guy that was supposed to be the replacement for Deshaun Thomas offensively, went scoreless on six shots from the floor.
There is no part of me that doubts the fact that Buzz Williams will get his team turned around. I don’t question the fact that the Golden Eagles will be a top 20 team by the end of the season, even if they are a ways away from that level right now.
But regardless of that fact, it’s inarguable that Ohio State looked every bit the part of a legitimate Big Ten title contender on Saturday.