Through the first 12 games of the season, Ohio State failed to deliver that marquee blowout win over a lesser opponent that most top-25 schools have done this season. On Friday night against Louisiana-Monroe, the Buckeyes flexed their muscle, picked up that marquee victory and the rest of the college basketball world should take notice.
Ohio State didn’t just beat ULM, they embarrassed them. The final score was 71-31, but not even that showed how badly the Buckeyes blew out the Warhawks. Ohio State held them to just 18 percent from the field and 16 percent from behind the arc. They played tough defense, but they were disciplined with their work, fouling just 14 times. On offense, they shot 44 percent and finished an impressive 17-for-20 from the charity stripe.
Individually, the Buckeyes showcased their playmakers as well as bench depth. Lenzelle Smith Jr. led the way with a game-high 17 points and LaQuinton Ross jumped back on the scoring bandwagon with 15 points of his own. Not to be overlooked, Amedeo Della Valle added 14 points off the bench. Simply put, playmakers are stepping up and were are learning that there is depth for Thad Matta on the bench.
The remaining teams on Ohio State’s schedule, the Big Ten conference, need to take notice of what happened in Columbus. The Buckeyes made a powerful statement with their defense, and in a conference that lives and dies by low-scoring and well-defended contests, that’s huge. When the heat cranks up in the new year and Ohio State digs into the meat of its conference schedule, they’ll be ready.
One of the big criticisms of the Buckeyes throughout their non-conference schedule was how weak it was. They only had one game against a ranked opponent, Marquette, who is no longer in the top 25, and the rest were against a bunch of mid-major teams. Adding to the criticism was the lack of a marquee blow out victory, something which is no more following Friday night’s thrashing of ULM.
Maybe now that the Buckeyes have finished their non-conference run undefeated and with an impressive bang, the rest of the college basketball world will give them a little more respect. It’s hard to call the third-ranked team in the land disrespected, but they have been. If Ohio State can keep up this level of play throughout their conference schedule, especially defensively, then they’ll be a team to watch come tourney time.