Lorenzo Romar was walking back from his time in front of the media when he bumped into Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas. Thomas had just finished obliterating Washington, particularly in the first half when he scored 21 points, and Romar joked with him that he was “greedy” for wanting to take free throws in place of an injured Ohio State player.
“Thirty-one wasn’t enough?” Romar asked with a smile.
It certainly was. Washington started Scott Suggs on Thomas because it thought Thomas is primarily a perimeter player. That’s true. Trouble is, he also 6-7 with a quick release. Suggs is 6-6, but gives away about 30 pounds to Thomas.
It’s easy to look at their size difference. But, one of the main issues was Washington switching on all ball screens Thomas set. Romar said he was worried about Thomas as a pick-and-pop player, so they decided to switch. That created an even bigger matchup problem for Washington, since it often left Abdul Gaddy or Andrew Andrews handling Thomas on the roll.
Ohio State was prepared for that. It told Thomas prior to “roll hard” and post up the smaller defender. He did so often. The Buckeyes even missed a chance to give the ball to him after switches on at least two occasions.
“I got in a rhythm coming off the roll and shot right over (the defender),” Thomas said. “It was just a mismatch to try to switch the ball screens.”
Washington calmed Thomas down in the second half by putting more length on him with Jernard Jarreau. Desmond Simmons also did a solid job against him.
It was too late then. Washington was down 10 at the half. It pulled within five with 17:26 left in the second half, but Thomas went on a personal 5-0 run right after that.
The Buckeyes also had an 8-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the first half.
“(That) was huge for us,” Ohio State coach Thad Mattas said. “When they made their run on Seton Hall, they turned them over.
“At times, they really had their way with us. The thing we told our guys is if Washington doesn’t have to run a set play, they’re going to be the happiest guys in the world because of how good they are in transition.”
Romar said afterward he was well past the Albany loss. The players said the same. As the season plays out, the overtime win against Seton Hall may become one of the most important of the year. Washington blows that lead, it could well be despondent and would have had a tough late game against scrappy Rhode Island.
Instead, national observers will see an 11-point loss (thanks to an 8-2 run to close the game) and not judge Washington harshly for it.
> C.J. Wilcox, who was 3-for-7 from 3 in the second half, said, “I felt we made progress. We didn’t play the way we were supposed to in the first half. We can tell where we’re at right now and where we have to get better.”
> Scott Suggs and Abdul Gaddy said the same.”We’ve got some stuff to work on, but we know what we’ve got to do to be a really good team,” Gaddy said. Each pointed to better defense and just being more crisp overall. Suggs had a mediocre shooting night, going 4-for-12. Gaddy scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half.
> Suggs said he felt fine this weekend, so, another explanation needs to be found for his nine turnovers in the two games in Connecticut.
> Aziz N’Diaye had another solid game. He scored nine points and had 11 rebounds. He was just 1-for-5 from the line though. He’s doing a good job this year, early, of staying out of foul trouble.
> Redshirt freshman Andrew Andrews is 4-for-18 from the field this year after going 0-for-2 Sunday. Two of those makes are 3-pointers. He’s proven tough off the dribble, but isn’t yet able to navigate the rapid rotating help defense of college basketball.
> The Huskies have carved the rotation down to seven players. Andrews and Simmons come off the bench and that’s it, until Shawn Kemp Jr. gets back.
> Washington plays the next eight games at home (well, one “road” game at KeyArena against Seattle U) before returning to Connecticut to play UConn on Dec. 29. “We need to get a little win streak going. It starts with Colorado State next weekend,” Gaddy said.
> Caught Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft on his way out. Here are his thoughts:
On Gaddy: “Phew. He’s really good. Can score in a lot of different ways. Especially when they started going ball screen made it really tough on us.”
On stopping a high-post offense: “There’s just a lot of space. Probably one of the more talented basketball teams we’re going to play in our non-conference schedule. Couldn’t relax on anyone and they’ve got some bigs in there who can really take advantage.”
“(Lots of) wide pindowns, handoffs, just a lot of different intricacies and you can’t prepare for all of them in a one-day prep.”
On trying to drag N’Diaye away from hoop: “Trying to as much as possible. He’s really long. Just trying to get him out as much as we could and attack the paint and see what we can get.”
> The official attendance was not on the postgame boxscore. Doubt that’s a coincidence. The 10,000-seat arena was barren.
> UPDATE: C.J. Wilcox was named to the all-tournament team. Ohio State’s Thomas was the MVP, Craft, Fuquan Edwin of Seton Hall and Mike Powell of Seton Hall round out the team.