Shannon Scott had never started a game in his Ohio State career.
The junior guard had never scored more than 15 points, taken more than three 3-pointers or made more than two in a single contest.
In the No. 10 Buckeyes’ season-opening 89-50 victory against Morgan State, all of that changed. Scott, who only made 11 3-pointers throughout the 2012-13 campaign, nailed three long balls in the first 2:03 of play against the Bears.
In his first career start, Scott finished second in the game with a career-high 16 points, sparked largely by his four 3-pointers. He was 4-7 from beyond the arc on the day.
Fellow junior, forward LaQuinton Ross, also made his first start for the Scarlet and Gray.
Scott said whether starting or coming off the bench, he just tries to stay on his game.
“We don’t think about starting or not starting,” he said. “When we get in the game, we just try and make the most of it.”
Scott and senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. teamed up for eight of OSU’s 11 3-pointers in the game. Smith Jr. said the long balls were a product of Morgan State’s defense more than a set game plan.
“We come out here and every game is going to be different. You’ve just got to take what the defense gives you,” he said. “I think our spacing was really good today and our team was able to find open guys.”
OSU coach Thad Matta said Scott’s success from long range is the product of hard work during the offseason and something that will likely continue.
“Improving shooting was a point of emphasis for him,” Matta said. “We talked about it all offseason, I told him he has to be able to knock down those shots.
“We grab him every night after practice and make him get 100 threes up,” Matta added. “With the luxury of eight buckets, we usually have other guys doing it, but his is specific. ‘You’re going to shoot 100 threes.’”
Matta mentioned a day during the offseason when Scott told him he took 400 shots in the gym, something that was new to the player.
“He told me, ‘I’ve never done that before,’ and I said, ‘Maybe there’s a reason you haven’t shot the ball particularly well,’” Matta recalled with a smile.
As a team, the Buckeyes were 11-25 from beyond the arc. Junior forward Sam Thompson was 2-for-3 and Ross hit 1 of 5. Sophomore guard Amedeo Della Valle missed on his only long-range attempt.
“We have players that can knock down open shots at any time,” Ross said. “We struggled with that at times last season, but now everyone has been in the gym during the summer and preseason and it’s become a strength.”
While his shooting stood out, Scott filled up the rest of the box score. The junior finished with seven assists, four rebounds and a steal in 26 minutes on the floor, while turning the ball over three times.
Aaron Craft received the preseason recognition for the Buckeyes, being named to the All-Big Ten team by CBSSports.com, but Scott outplayed the senior guard throughout the game. Craft finished with six assists, six rebounds and five points.
Regardless of Craft’s scoring or his personal success, Scott said he recognized his team’s plethora of weapons on offense.
“It really makes it hard for our team to be guarded,” he said. “Teams really can’t focus on one player.”
Matta recognized the depth as well, and said it will be a must for his team going forward.
“That’s the balance that this team’s going to have to have in terms of how we want to play and how we think we should play,” he said. “The rotations, I thought guys came and really gave us a good boost and that’s something that’s going to be big for this team.”
Along with Scott’s handful of personal bests, Ross grabbed 11 rebounds, a career-high. Five Buckeyes scored in double figures to help top Morgan State: Behind Smith Jr.’s 18 and Scott’s 16, Ross and Thompson had 14 each and freshman forward Marc Loving chipped in with 10 points in his OSU debut.
Next up, the Buckeyes are scheduled to host Ohio University Tuesday at 8 p.m.