Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
Coach Thad Matta explored a wide array of personnel groupings in Ohio State’s exhibition win against Walsh on Tuesday, in hopes of finding a reliable rotation for the regular season. One pairing he said stood out was the guard tandem of junior Aaron Craft and sophomore Shannon Scott.
“I like that combination out there,” Matta said.
Craft, one of three returning starters for the No. 4 Buckeyes, has one year of starting experience to his name at OSU. As a starter, the junior averaged 4.6 assists last season, third-best in the Big Ten.
When Matta inserted Scott alongside Craft, however, it was Scott who assumed primary ball-handling duties.
Craft, who earned preseason All-Big Ten recognition, said he felt comfortable playing off-ball alongside Scott.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m handling the ball or Shannon is,” Craft said. “Not too much changes. With the offense we run, a lot of guys are interchangeable.”
Craft was still able to make an impact with Scott on the floor. Many times Scott found Craft toward the top of the key, allowing the junior guard to facilitate the offense through screen-and-rolls. Craft finished the game with a team-high six assists, while Scott chipped in with two more .
Junior forward Deshaun Thomas scored a game-high 25 points and was the beneficiary of a Craft assist on his first basket of the game.
“Great point guards like Craft and Shannon can get us those scores,” Thomas said.
Former Buckeyes guard David Lighty was in attendance for the game, and told The Lantern that he too enjoyed watching the back court combination of Craft and sophomore guard Shannon Scott.
“It’s a nice tempo and I like fast-paced,” Lighty said.
Scott was a highly-ranked recruit in 2011 coming out of Milton High School in Alpharetta, Ga., but was mostly ineffective during his debut season in Columbus. He averaged 1.2 points per game as a freshman while shooting 28 percent from the floor .
Matta said Scott has been “really good” in practice lately, and he showed signs of improvement against Walsh. The sophomore scored six points on 3-of-6 shooting, including a contested pull-up jumper which indicated that his jump shot might be coming along.
Matta also said that having two point guards on the floor will allow them to apply pressure on defense, which Craft believes will translate into easy transition scores.
“Hopefully (we can) get out and run a little bit,” Craft said. “(If we) make some good decisions in transition, that’s always tough to guard.”
OSU is scheduled to play in an additional closed-door exhibition game , before officially opening the 2012-13 season in the Carrier Classic on the USS Yorktown in Charleston, S.C., against Marquette on Nov. 9.
Pat Brennan contributed to this story.