When the Ohio State men’s basketball team fell down 9-2 early on in its game against Indiana, two players didn’t seem to panic.
The starting backcourt of senior Shannon Scott and freshman D’Angelo Russell led the Buckeyes back to their second straight win Sunday afternoon, though neither of them put together a complete game.
Russell, who scored 16 of his 22 points in the first half of OSU’s 82-70 victory over No. 23 Indiana, attempted just four shots in the second half, in part because of cramps.
Enter Scott, who scored all 10 of his points against the Hoosiers in the second half, including four points while Russell was on the bench.
The combination of Russell’s youth and scoring along with Scott’s experience and consistency is something OSU coach Thad Matta said he believes will help the team as a whole be successful.
“I thought Shannon was not great in the first half but he was tremendous in the second half. He needed that, that’s for sure,” Matta said. “Having the luxury of switching between him and D’Angelo is great for this team because they all feed off one another and it’s nice knowing you may have two point guards out there.”
Russell, who OSU had relied upon greatly in a 69-67 win over Northwestern on Thursday, didn’t need to score nearly as much against the Hoosiers, which showed from his 10 assists for the game.
Matta said Russell’s attention to detail is what makes him multidimensional as a guard.
“He is very unique. (We were) coming home (from Northwestern) the other night. It’s 1 o’clock in the morning and he is on the plane watching film. The other guys were studying or sleeping and he wants to learn,” Matta said.
“He wants to be a great player. And I think that his commitment in terms of the questions he asks in film session, you are kind of like, ‘Man, he thinks almost like a coach.’”
Russell said after the win over Indiana that he was just letting the game come to him and letting his teammates make shots.
“I feel like they (Indiana) were putting a lot of pressure on me. They were keying on me,” Russell said. “So it just made it easier for my teammates to step up and do what they do best. I give credit to all my teammates. They were making shots and finishing.”
Matta said it was Russell’s vision that allowed him to find his teammates for multiple open shots.
“I thought he was playing brilliant basketball. He was dragging that guy (a defender) with him and it was opening up a lot of other things,” Matta said. “They didn’t want him to make the play. He was brilliant in what he did and how he read things.”
Scott, who up until this season played alongside former Buckeye Aaron Craft, said he has no problem sharing the court with Russell, especially when the freshman plays like he did against Indiana.
“The way he controlled the game in the first half was unbelieveable,” Scott said of Russell’s play. “I have no problem going off the ball … He did a great job out there.”
Matta said he knew before the season started that the combination of Scott and Russell could be successful if they learned to share the court.
“We were practicing this summer before our trip to the Bahamas and at the end of practice one day I stopped and I just said, ‘Hey, this is D’Angelo’s court.’ He has got complete control of the court. And I was saying it to Shannon Scott to say, ‘You need to get the other half of it,’” Matta said.
Indiana coach Tom Crean said he, too, noticed how well the OSU backcourt played together, especially against his Hoosiers. He added that both players have a chance to play in the NBA.
“The bottom line today is D’Angelo Russell and Shannon Scott played the way we couldn’t let them play, and we did,” Crean said. “They never got uncomfortable and therefore everybody on the team was a beneficiary of it.”
OSU freshman forward Jae’Sean Tate, who scored a career-high 20 points against the Hoosiers, credited both Scott and Russell for his biggest game as a Buckeye thus far.
“With these two guys, I was just finishing the baskets,” Tate said. “They just fed it to me. It was spoon-fed. Without my point guards, that wouldn’t be possible.”
Scott, Russell and the Buckeyes are scheduled to take the floor again Thursday against the No. 13 Maryland Terrapins at the Schottenstein Center. Tip is set for 7 p.m.