COLUMBUS - Ladies and gentlemen, we've had a DeShaun Thomas sighting.
The ballyhooed frosh from Fort Wayne, In., who was a scoring machine during his prep days, did a number on his homestate Hoosiers Sunday afternoon in front of a sold-out crowd at the Value City Arena, sparking the Buckeyes' 82-61 rout.
The Buckeyes have plenty of weapons, but as the tournament draws nearer, it's vital they're able to use as much of their bench as possible and Thomas is a big key to that.
With freshman Jared Sulinger on the bench most of the first half with foul trouble, Thomas came through and helped break the Hoosiers' back in the first half.
Thomas, who has been chastised at times for his lack of consistency and the fact that he's never gun shy when it comes to shooting the basketball, saw significant minutes in the first half.
The increase in minutes allowed Thomas to get into the flow of the game. At one point during the first half, he scored 14 straight points, including back-to-back trips where he nailed a three-pointer.
Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas (1) looks to go to the basket as Indiana's Jeremiah Rivers (5) defends during the second half of a game Sunday in Columbus.
"I've just been keeping my head up and staying focused," Thomas said in the post-game press conference. "I was able to get to spots and hit open shots. I hit those two threes and I really started to feel comfortable."
Thomas, a McDonald's All-American, had scored just 13 in his last seven games before finishing with a game-high 22, which is just two shy of his career high.
"We see him make shots like that every day (in practice)," said OSU senior David Lighty. "Once he gets it going, there's no way to stop him or get the ball out of his hands. We know and he knows he can play like that. Indiana was collapsing on us and he got to spots and knocked down shots."
Most are well aware that Matta doesn't sub much especially in critical spots late in games. However, he was quizzed on whether or not Thomas' explosion could earn him more minutes as the Big 10 and NCAA Tournaments draw closer.
"We're going to need DeShaun," Matta said. "His attitude has never waivered. He's putting in a lot of impressive work before and after practices, but the big thing he needs to do is continue to improve on the defensive end of the floor."
See, it wasn't Thomas' quick release or struggles from the floor, which has saw his minutes shaved of late. It was all about the defensive end, which has been a strength for the Buckeyes all season. Having said that, Matta stressed to his club leading up to the Hoosiers that it needed to get back to the ways it was defending a few weeks ago.
"We had to get back in the mindset of defending," Matta said. "We were letting teams shoot at too good of a percentage from the field."
The Buckeyes will need that mindset from now on because the next time they play, it'll be March.
Bring on the madness!
"It's just something that comes along with it," Matta said of the possible ranking. "We've said all along, we want to be there at the end."
"We think it's huge to win the regular season title," Matta said. "We've not even talked about the postseason or anything along those lines"
Sullinger only logged 13 minutes in the game because of foul trouble and then the game got out of hand.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org