Could this be a sign of things to come from Thomas?
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.
“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!
- FORMER BUCKEYES A.J. Hawk, Anthony Gonzalez and Bobby Carpenter were all three on hand and recognized during the course of the game. All three received huge roars from the sell-out crowd.
- SPEAKING OF football, I’m probably in a minority, but I find it somewhat sad and embarassing when people attending a major college basketball game of the soon to be number one team in the country and they’re wearing football jerseys. I mean I understand football is, and always will be king at OSU, but just because you’re within site of Ohio Stadium doesn’t mean you need to throw on your jersey.
- THAT LEADS me to another rant. I’ve said above that the three former Buckeye football players received huge ovations. Well, those were the biggest roars of the night. Personally, I love basketball of any sort, but it seems to me the people who attend OSU games are just there for the experience or something. Other than the obvious cheers on made baskets or the two ridiculous alley-oop dunks in the game, the fans just sort of sit there stoic.
- THE BUCKEYES should ascend to number one again, at least in the Associated Press Poll, when it’s released today. No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Texas both suffered losses this week, leaving the door open for the Buckeyes, who equaled their largest regular-season win total under Matta’s watch today.
“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.”
- OHIO STATE plays at Penn State Tuesday in a 9 p.m. game on ESPN. Due to the quick turnaround, the Buckeyes won’t leave for State College until Tuesday morning. They’ll close out their home schedule Sunday against Wisconsin. Two wins will give the Buckeyes an out-right Big 10 regular season title. A single win guarantees a share unless Purdue stubs its toe this week.
“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”
- JARED SULLINGER didn’t record a field goal for the first time all season. He finished with five foul shots and became just the fifth OSU frosh to score more than 500 points. He’s the 29th player, all told, to eclipse the barrier in a single season.
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