COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Thad Matta knows he has one scorer. Now he is trying to develop others.
Deshaun Thomas had 18 points, including a 3-pointer in an 11-point run in the first half, to lead No. 7 Ohio State past tired Long Beach State 89-55 on Saturday.
The Buckeyes need more than the one option — passing the ball to the always-ready-to-shoot Thomas — on offense.
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“That’s the way we have to be, to be honest with you,” Matta said. “As you look across the board in college basketball and as you get into conference play, the Big Ten defensively is as good as there is in the country. Just having different guys out there that can knock shots down is something that is going to be advantageous.”
In an easy romp past the 49ers (3-6), the Buckeyes (6-1) had other weapons.
LaQuinton Ross had 16 points in a reserve role, Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 14, and Sam Thompson had 13 as Ohio State built a 42-point lead before experimenting with different lineup combinations.
“First, we need Deshaun to score, but (it’s good) having other guys out there who can put the ball in the basket,” said Matta, in his 10th year at Ohio State. “The best teams that I’ve ever coached had multiple scorers. The `07 team is probably the best I’ve had here, and Greg (Oden) led us in scoring at 15 points a game and you just never knew night to night who was going to lead you in scoring. I’m fine with that.”
Ross has had back-to-back big games. A starter earlier in the season, he is giving the Buckeyes a shot of instant offense.
He scored 22 points in a win over Northern Kentucky in their last game, then added career highs with nine rebounds and four assists to go with his scoring against Long Beach.
“Coming off the bench it was always hard, but you’ve got to get in the game quick because you’ve got to produce quick,” he said. “Even if you’re not making shots on the offensive end you have to play defense at the other end. My 3s didn’t fall this game (0 for 5) but I found other ways to score.”
Up by 14 at the break, the Buckeyes wasted little time in putting the game out of reach.
Smith made a jumper on the first trip down the floor of the second half and, after a Long Beach miss, he fed Evan Ravenel for a thunderous dunk down the heart of the lane and through traffic.
49ers coach Dan Monson, familiar with Ohio State from his days coaching at Minnesota, called a quick timeout at the 19-minute mark but that didn’t stem the tide.
“This game was over one minute into the second half,” Monson said. “To me, that’s where (my) team has got to grow. It is a bad basketball team, but it doesn’t have to be. We have better players than what we played today. That’s something that we’ve got to, we have to play better.”
Dan Jennings scored 16 points and James Ennis had 12 for the 49ers, who have dropped three straight. They lost at No. 4 Syracuse 84-53 on Thursday before taking on another top-10 team just over 40 hours later.
“We just have to believe that we can go out and win these kinds of games,” Jennings said. “We have to come together as a team, play together. We may not be the deepest team, but we have talent, and if we believe, we can do it.”
Ohio State led 39-25 at the break, riding an 11-0 run.
“We came into this game a little flat,” said Thomas, who made seven field goals but celebrated more after an assist on a 3 by Aaron Craft. “The one thing we did, we stayed together and we shared the ball real well. We passed to each other and somebody scored.”
One major area of concern for the Buckeyes remains the post position. Ravenel, Amir Williams and Trey McDonald combined for 13 points, eight rebounds and nine fouls in their 40 minutes.
“Guys have shown that they can play in great spurts, but they have to play at that level all along,” Matta said. “That’s where this team can take a jump in the right direction in locking that position down.”
Long Beach State’s strength of schedule was ranked 38th in the nation before the games at Syracuse and Ohio State. The 49ers have also played No. 11 North Carolina and No. 10 Arizona, unranked Southern California, and will visit UCLA later this month.
“Of those teams (we’ve played), I think Ohio State is the best defensive team,” Monson said. “When you get in those big games like that, the defense usually overrides the offense. And I really like Ohio State is balanced, and yet they have a go-to guy. Thomas can go get a basket anytime he wants and then they have other guys.”