If the rest of the starts by Shannon Scott and LaQuinton Ross go like the first one, No. 11 Ohio State won’t have any problem having a superlative season.
Scott scored a career-high 16 points and Ross, also starting for the first time as a junior, had 14 points and a personal-best 11 rebounds to lead the Buckeyes past Morgan State, 89-50, on Saturday.
Asked which career high most pleased him, coach Thad Matta refused to choose.
“Quite honestly, both. For Shannon, him seeing the ball go through the basket, you see that hard work pay off that obviously gives you that boost of confidence,” Matta said. “For LaQuinton, we knew we were losing a great rebounder in Deshaun (Thomas). That’s one of the things we’ve questioned about this team — where’s the rebounding going to come from? He did a very nice job of rebounding out of his area. We’re going to need that from him.”
Lenzelle Smith Jr. led the way with 18 points and spurred a first-half spurt for the Buckeyes, who improved to 93-18 in home openers and 89-22 in season debuts.
Ohio State scored the first eight points and built a 26-point halftime lead.
Sam Thompson added 14 points and freshman Marc Loving had 10 for Ohio State. Scott had seven assists to go with his 16 points, while Ross registered his first career double-double.
“(That balance) makes it really hard for our team to be guarded,” said Scott, the son of legendary North Carolina and NBA star Charlie Scott. “They really can’t focus in on one player. Everybody on the court is capable of scoring now.”
The Buckeyes are coming off a 29-8 season in which they tied for second in the Big Ten with a 13-5 record.
Ohio State returns four starters: Amir Williams, Aaron Craft, Smith and Thompson. Ross, who blossomed in the NCAA tournament last year as a reserve, is expected to step into the spot vacated by the early departure of Thomas, last year’s Big Ten scoring leader.
“We’ve been working on rebounding a lot in practices, just because our team is really not that big,” said the 6-foot-8 Ross, a wing or even a big guard on offense. “You see we’ve got one 6-10 guy (Williams) and the rest of our guys are perimeter players. We’ve definitely been working on everybody pitching in and getting rebounds. It’s something I just did tonight.”
Just as he had in a 93-63 exhibition victory over Walsh last Sunday, Matta brought Thompson off the bench and inserted Scott into the starting lineup. The combination of the quick Scott and physical Craft gives the Buckeyes one of the best pairings of defensive guards in the country.