The surprise starting lineup you saw in Ohio State’s exhibition game yesterday isn’t necessarily the lineup you’ll get from the team when it begins the regular season on Saturday against Morgan State.
Or maybe it is.
“We’ve got a lot of pieces,” coach Thad Matta said after the 11th-ranked Buckeyes’ 93-63 victory over Walsh in Value City Arena, “and one of the big keys is, it may be predicated on matchups.
“We’ll go back and open everything up (in practice this week) and see who plays well leading into the opener.”
When the lineups were announced before tipoff, junior Shannon Scott was in for the first time in his career and one of his roommates, Sam Thompson, was out after starting all 37 games last season. Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr., LaQuinton Ross and Amir Williams rounded out the five.
“Shannon has been phenomenal” in preseason practice, Matta said. “Sam has played at a very high level, as well. He was fine with bringing that energy (off the bench), which I thought he did a very, very good job of.
“You can only start five. We’ll rotate them, I guess. We’ll figure it out this week.”
Regardless of who started and who didn’t, each of the seven guards and forwards available logged more than 20 minutes, and centers Williams and Trey McDonald split 34 (Matta played a smaller, two-forward lineup for the other six minutes).
Five Buckeyes scored in double figures, led by Ross and Smith with 15 points apiece. Craft had 14 points and five assists. Amedeo Della Valle scored 13 points, including three of the team’s four three-pointers, and Thompson had 12 points.
Williams, after stumbling out of the gate with an air-ball hook shot and a rebound foul, recovered to finish with eight points, 10 rebounds, five blocked shots and three steals in 19 minutes.
He sat out for nearly five minutes after his first foul and was not called for another until 4:48 was left in the game.
Before the game, Williams received words of encouragement from assistant coach Dave Dickerson.
“He was like, ‘Don’t let your first or second shot determine how you play the rest of the game,’ ” Williams said. “He told me to keep my head and everything would be good.
“When Coach put me back in, I just kept playing, playing hard, went after rebounds, gave my best and didn’t let that first shot affect how I play.”
Freshman forward Marc Loving had nine rebounds in 22 minutes in his debut. He said there’s a “window of opportunity” for him to play if he can do the dirty work.
“Today it was rebounding and playing defense,” Loving said. “I felt like there were a lot of opportunities for rebounds. We really have to focus on that throughout the whole season to be dominant.”
There is more to focus on this week. The Buckeyes forced 23 turnovers, and scored 29 points off them, but also committed 18. They shot 50 percent from the field but could have been better had they finished more easy chances at the basket.
“What we talked about afterward was we didn’t have the flow we were looking for offensively,” Matta said. “That’s something we’ve got to get.”