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February 20, 2013

Buckeyes bounce back in blowout

Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham



COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After a rock bottom loss to Wisconsin on Sunday, the Ohio State basketball team was in need of some inspiration. So Buckeyes head coach Thad Matta turned to one of sports' best motivators: Ray Lewis.

The video of the Baltimore Ravens' linebacker did its job, as seen evident by Ohio State's 71-45 win over Minnesota on Wednesday.

"It was unique," Matta said of the Lewis speech that he showed his team. "Just from the standpoint of a couple of messages he had and showing the guys, just talking about effort. That sort of thing."

Perhaps fitting of Lewis' physical nature, the Buckeyes' bounce back win was far from pretty and came down to the defensive end of the floor.

In a game where 42 total fouls were called, OSU held the Golden Gophers to 29.2 percent shooting with Minnesota making just 14 field goals on 48 attempts. The Buckeyes took advantage of 24 Gophers turnovers, which translated into 26 points for Ohio State.

"We had a lot of energy. I think against Wisconsin, we were just out there. We weren't really doing our job or being ourselves. We were just playing basketball," OSU guard Shannon Scott said. "This game, we came out with a lot of energy and enthusiasm like coach wanted us to do and we were able to feed off that."

Three days after being on the wrong side of an 18-0 run in Madison, the Buckeyes enjoyed a 16-0 run of their own against Minnesota, stretching a 37-31 lead into a 22-point advantage with seven minutes remaining in the game. Deshaun Thomas and Scott combined for 12 of the Buckeyes' points over that stretch, which ultimately put the game out of reach for the Gophers, who have now lost four of their last five contests.

"We got out in transition, hit a couple threes, got to the free throw line, and it was good for this team," Thomas said. "That's one big boost for us to come out and make a spark like that and don't give up. Keep pushing our foot on the gas and keep going."

With 10 combined fouls called in the game's first four minutes, the first and only scheduled meeting of the year between OSU and Minnesota had all of the makings of a classic Big Ten slugfest. The Schottenstein Center crowd, however, soon found some excitement, when Matta inserted seldom-used guard Amedeo Della Valle into the game at the 16:12 mark of the first half.

The Buckeyes' fan favorite and lone freshman responded, immediately pulling down a rebound much to the delight of those in attendance. Subbing back into the game with four minutes of play remaining, Della Valle connected on two 3-point shots and totaled six points and three rebounds in seven minutes of action on Wednesday.

"Amedeo has really, really played well the last couple of weeks, every day in practice," Matta said. "I like his energy, I like his basketball savvy and understanding of what we're trying to do. The biggest thing with that young man is he just cares. He cares so much about the team. Guys like that have notoriously in this program done very well for us."

Thomas led all players in scoring with 19 points, with Scott adding 11 points, and sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross tallying 10 points. Asked what the difference was between OSU's outings on Sunday and Wednesday, Thomas circled back to the theme of Lewis' speech, which was originally delivered to Stanford's basketball team prior to a game in the National Invitation Tournament last season.

"Effort," Thomas said when asked what Lewis' message was. "He basically said nobody can give you effort but yourself, so it's all on you to get effort."

Still three games back of the lead in the Big Ten standings, the Buckeyes are hopeful that the effort that they displayed against the Gophers will carry over to Sunday, when they host Michigan State (22-5, 11-3) in a game that could potentially eliminate OSU from the race for the conference crown.

"We played with a lot of energy, enthusiasm, and we played with a lot of heart," Thomas said of his team's latest performance. "That's what Ohio State basketball's all about."



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