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November 3, 2013

Sloppy start gives way to big win in exhibition opener

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - While Sunday's game was only an exhibition game against Walsh it still will go a long way in answering questions and help defining what the 2013-14 Ohio State Buckeyes team will look like. A sluggish start was shaken off with 19-6 first half run as the Buckeyes pulled away and never looked back in defeating Walsh 93-63.

The graduation of Deshaun Thomas and Evan Ravenel left a scoring void for this team and everyone wanted to see if LaQuinton Ross could step up and fill the void or if it would be a team effort to replace those points. Ross did not score a single point for nearly the first 15 minutes of the game but finally got onto the stat sheet with a made free throw and finished the first half on a flurry to score eight in the frame and 15 on the afternoon. Lenzelle Smith, Jr. also had 15 points for the Buckeyes as five players scored in double figures.

Ross had been held out of shooting for nearly a week however after dealing with a hand issue, something that the team did not disclose before the game.

"He has been in a cast and has been actually playing left handed," Thad Matta said after the game. "That was good to get him back into the flow."

Ross finished the day 4-9 from the field and 6-10 from the line and hit his only three-point attempt. Ross played for 23 minutes on the afternoon and now has the week to get ready for when the games count.

"He had something in his right hand on the top, there was nothing in the MRI, it was just some inflammation and it has obviously gone down," Matta added.

Center Amir Williams had eight points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and three steals in 21 minutes of play. Amedeo Della Valle had 13 points off of the bench and was 3-4 from distance as the Buckeyes were 4-9 from beyond the arc.

Ohio State took a 23 point lead to the halftime locker room and saw Walsh chip at the lead during the first four minute section of the second half, that was not something that sat well with Matta.

"We knew we came out flat and after that first media timeout coach told us how we had to come out and play better and play stronger and try and get stops on the defensive end," Williams said.

Walsh University was led by Jesse Hardin and his 18 points and Davonte Beard had 13 points. The Cavaliers were plagued with foul problems and were whistled 31 times in the game while the Buckeyes were hit for 14 fouls on the afternoon.

Ohio State guard and All-Big Ten defender Aaron Craft ended the game with four fouls but two were called late in the game and it appeared that the senior guard passed his first test with the NCAA clamping down on hand-checking. Through the years under Matta the Buckeyes have not been a heavily whistled team in terms of fouls and Matta doesn't want to start the year off on the wrong foot.

"We have had to alter what we have called in practice just in terms of the hand checking and the grabbing and I thought we did a great job of playing without fouling today," Matta said "We had a couple of late in the shot clock and those are the ones that we can't commit and they were both 25 or 30 feet from the basket, those we have to straighten out."

Ohio State made the most of sloppy ball handling by Walsh and converted for 29 points off of 23 turnovers by the away team. Ohio State gave the ball up 18 times as well in a game that got to be relatively sloppy when not being interrupted with whistles for fouls.

There will be plenty to work on however between now and Saturday when the Buckeyes play again between the turnovers, bad percentage from the free throw line (29-42 - 69-percent) and stretches where focus appeared to be lost. The games start to count for real when Morgan State comes to town for a 12:00pm (EST) tip-off on Saturday.

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