November 22, 2014

The emergence of Shannon Scott has made the departure of Ohio State star captain Aaron Craft appear virtually inconsequential.

After helping the 20th-ranked Buckeyes pass what seemed to be their only potential test of November with relative ease, Scott looks to maintain his impressive effectiveness in setting up his teammates Sunday night against visiting Sacred Heart.

The graduation of Craft saw Ohio State lose its all-time assists leader, not to mention one of the team's three top scorers from last season. The other two - LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr. - are also gone.

So far, the Buckeyes (2-0) have had no trouble replacing them.

Scott has stepped into Craft's role quite seamlessly, leading the nation with 12.5 assists per game. His 14 assists Tuesday were one off Craft's single-game school record as Ohio State defeated Marquette 74-63.

"I loved Shannon's demeanor," coach Thad Matta said. "We want him to be aggressive. He made great reads in transition and found guys."

The senior has also chipped in 17 points while shooting 50.0 percent.

"I just have so many weapons around me it makes the game a lot easier," Scott said.

Among those weapons is freshman Kam Williams, who had a team-high 15 points in 18 minutes off the bench Tuesday. He's shot 11 of 15 thus far, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range.

"When I get in the gym, I make sure I take game shots," Williams said. "If I take all my game shots in practice, it's easy come game time because I'm used to taking those shots. From elevation to release, it felt natural."

Ohio State is hitting 45.9 percent from beyond the arc a season after ranking ninth in the Big Ten at 32.4.

The Buckeyes are also getting production inside, with forwards Marc Loving and Sam Thompson each scoring in double figures in both games. Senior center Amir Williams had 14 points and three steals Tuesday.

Matta has generally used a short bench but is now trying to go deeper, giving double-figure minutes to 10 players in each of the first two games.

"Playing 10 guys is really an advantage for us," Scott said. "I can speak for myself, I never got tired, and I don't think Kam or Amir did either. Everyone always feels fresh coming on the court, and that really helps us keep up intensity on both ends."

The Buckeyes never trailed after the first six minutes and led by as many as 20 against Marquette, the lone major conference opponent among their first five and the only one that had a winning record last season. After hosting Sacred Heart (1-1), Ohio State faces Campbell on Wednesday and James Madison two days later before visiting No. 7 Louisville on Dec. 2.

The Pioneers' 5-26 record last season was third-worst in Division I. They're coming off Thursday's 57-54 home loss to Massachusetts-Lowell, a team the Buckeyes beat by 37 to open the season.

Ohio State has never played Sacred Heart but is 10-0 against Northeast Conference programs.

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