In the first two games of the 2013-14 season, the Ohio State men’s basketball team tallied 27 assists.
Through two games this season, Shannon Scott has 25.
The No. 20 Buckeyes — playing without their top three scorers from last season — are 2-0 and shooting 63.3 percent from the field in those two games.
After OSU’s 74-63 win against Marquette on Tuesday, Scott — who had 14 of the team’s 23 assists in the game — said his teammates have a different offensive mindset than they did a year ago.
“I think last year, we would play the same way at times, but players didn’t know if they wanted to shoot the ball or not,” Scott said. “I think this year everybody knows that when they touch the ball, it’s gonna be their shot, and they gotta make the shot.”
Against the Golden Eagles, making the shot is exactly what the Buckeyes did, and what they have done consistently through 80 minutes of basketball this year. With five new players contributing to the scoring output, the shooting — and making — has come on the shoulders of a variety of players.
Including a true freshman, a redshirt-freshman and a redshirt-senior playing in their first seasons at OSU, six different Buckeyes have scored in double figures at some point this season. Four of those six players have averaged double digits through two games, and two of those four didn’t take the court last season.
The distribution of scoring has led to all 10 OSU players who have taken the court this season scoring on both games.
With senior forward Sam Thompson, senior centers Amir Williams and Trey McDonald, redshirt-senior forward Anthony Lee, sophomore forward Marc Loving, redshirt-freshman guard Kam Williams, freshman guard D’Angelo Russell, freshman forwards Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate and himself all contributing points, Scott said the Buckeyes already have a good idea of how they each fit into the team dynamic.
“Just the simple fact that everybody came in and contributed in some aspect of the game is just a great feeling,” Scott said Tuesday. “And I think everybody has a better understanding of what their role is.”
The wide range of contribution has helped Scott excel as a distributor, as he picked up 11 assists in the opener against the University of Massachusetts-Lowell last Friday before his 14 helpers against Marquette.
Those 14 assists are tied for the second most in a single game in school history, but Scott attributed the big numbers to his teammates and not his own play.
“I just have so many weapons around me, it makes the game a lot easier,” he said. “Kam came into the game, played great. Amir played well.
“Sam, Marc, D’Angelo, Jae’Sean, Kam, Keita, Trey, Anthony, everybody played well. So having so many weapons around me, it makes the game a lot easier for me.”
After the Buckeyes’ hot hand from 3-point land carried them to a seven-point halftime lead against the Golden Eagles, they moved inside and scored 32 points in the paint in the second half. Coach Thad Matta credited Scott’s ability to push the team for the second-half switch on offense.
“I think Shannon was able to open things up a little bit and obviously Sam running in transition,” Matta said after the game. “I think our bigs are really doing a good job of getting down the floor as well which opens things up.”
Scott said the team’s mindset has changed from a year ago, allowing for the more free-flowing offense OSU has run so far this season.
“I think everybody just has the mindset this year that we’re not gonna take any plays off on the offensive end,” he said. “We played so hard on defense the last couple years that we kind of forgot about offense.”
Perhaps contributing to his recent success passing the ball, Scott added that the Buckeyes have more of a plan on offense than they did last year as well.
“This year we know when we get the ball we’re gonna attack every time,” Scott said. “You can ask Kam and Amir the same thing, we’re all attacking every time we touch the ball, and that makes it a lot easier for all of us.”
Apart from the new-look offense, Amir Williams said the Buckeyes have benefited from a change to their defensive philosophy as well after switching to a zone look.
“We have so much length and quickness on defense,” he said after the Marquette game. “It allows us to attack our opponents better than last year. We have guys doing a great job of covering the gaps, and we’re definitely still working out the kinks, but so far it’s been working very well for us.”
As the team transitions its mindset on both sides of the ball, Scott has helped lead a high-flying young roster to a fresh start to begin a potential-laden season. But with the rest of the year an unknown, one thing is for sure. If Lee had flown just a little higher on one dunk attempt, Scott would have made his mark in the records books, and not just on recent box scores.
Amir Williams and Kam Williams combined to let out a long “oooh” when they found out Scott was just a Lee-missed-dunk away from tying former Buckeye Aaron Craft’s program record of 15 assists, but the fourth-year veteran took it in stride, and instead looked ahead to another chance.
“It’s OK, we’ll just try to get it again, another game or something,” Scott said.
OSU is scheduled to return to the court on Sunday against Sacred Heart at the Schottenstein Center. Tip is set for 7 p.m.