Five Things We Learned – Penn State
By Brandon Castel
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Tuesday night’s game at Penn State could have been a huge trap game for Ohio State.
It was a 9 p.m. start on Senior Night in Happy Valley, and the Buckeyes had just regained their No. 1 ranking in the polls after throttling Indiana in Columbus Sunday. Sure they could wrap up a share of the Big Ten title, but there was a much larger game looming Sunday against Wisconsin.
Not only will it be the season-finale and Senior Night for David Lighty, Jon Diebler and Dallas Lauderdale, but the Buckeyes are looking for revenge against the only team on their schedule with a winning record against them this season.
It could have been a huge trap game, but it wasn’t. The Buckeyes came ready to play, and they took it to Penn State from start to finish. They came out of the gates with smothering defense while Jon Diebler and William Buford took care of things at the offensive end.
Here’s a look at the five things we learned from Ohio State’s 82-61 win at Bryce Jordan Arena.
1.This is a championship team. It sounds crazy to think we might just be learning that this team is “championship caliber.” Didn’t the 27-2 start give it away? Or the fact Ohio State has beaten all comers this season, save for their two toughest games on the road. They have the best freshman in America and a cast of veterans supporting him, not to mention a pesky point guard who has harassed some of the best guards in the conference off their game.
They had all the pieces to be a great team, but Tuesday proved they are a championship team. Sure, it was only Penn State, but the Nittany Lions haven’t been a walk in the park, especially at their place. This OSU team comes ready to play every night. Even in their two losses, the Buckeyes came to play, it just wasn’t their day. With a championship in their sights, this team is as dialed in as any I’ve seen. It goes back to last year, the way the buckeyes rallied from a 1-3 start in the Big Ten to win the title, but Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft have brought that same will to win. There was no way this team was going to have a letdown, not with what’s at stake. They played like champions Tuesday night, and I believe they will be outright champs after Sunday.
2. Diebler is the best outside shooter in OSU history. That’s a mouthful for someone who has been covering the team for less than a decade, but who else has the accolades to match what Diebler has done in four year at Ohio State? Because of a horrendous freshman year, Diebler’s career percentage isn’t as high as guys like Doug Etzler, Je’Kel Foster and Sean Connolly, but none of them had the volume of shots that Diebler has hoisted up as a Buckeye.
Heading into this season, he was already the Ohio State record-holder for three-pointers made in a season (116) and a career (260), but he has taken things to new heights as a senior. This year alone, he has become the all-time career record-holder in the Big Ten, passing the official record set by Penn State’s Pete Lisicky and the unofficial record held by Michigan’s Louis Bullock.
Earlier in the year he tied Jay Burson’s record of nine threes in a game, and Tuesday he broke that record, tying the Big Ten record with 10 threes against the Nittany Lions. Already with the fourth (.420) and sixth (.416) highest single-season three-point percentages under his belt, Diebler (.470) is on pace to shatter the school record for highest three-point percentage in a season.
3. Buckeyes proving they are more than just Sullinger. What’s more amazing about Ohio State’s season than just their win-loss record is the fact that so many different guys have carried this team at different points. Early on it looked like stopping Jared Sullinger was the key to beating the Buckeyes, but that hasn’t been the case. Sullinger has scored more than 12 points just once in the last five games, and that was the only one Ohio State lost. He scored 25 at Purdue, but the Buckeyes are 4-0 in the other four games. Sullinger probably could have gone for 20 points Tuesday had they needed it, but with Diebler and Buford shooting the way they were, Sullinger was more than happy to settle for a quiet double-double.
4. Buford has become Mr. Consistent for the Buckeyes. A big reason for that success has been the emergence of William Buford as Ohio State’s most consistent scorer. He didn’t make headlines Tuesday because of the show Diebler put on, but it was Buford who got them going offensively. When his shot is on, he’s nearly impossible to defend. He can score in so many different ways, and has really developed as a passer. Although he struggled at Purdue (7 points in 28 foul-plagued minutes), Buford has scored double-digits in nine of the last 10 games, and 12 of the last 14. He has three 20-point games in the last six outings and is shooting better than 44 percent from behind the arc.
5. Penn State fans are classy, in a Charlie Sheen sort of way. It was good to see the Bryce Jordan Center rocking Tuesday, at least by Penn State standards. That place is notorious for being a graveyard on game days, but the PSU faithful packed it to the rafters Tuesday for the combination of Senior Night and the No. 1 team in the country being on hand. Thad Matta’s security guard even told him they would go out the back way if Penn State fans stormed the court. As if. The Nittany Lions have yet to beat Matta, and Tuesday was no different. The Buckeyes blew the doors off the Lions in their own building, and sucked the air right out of the arena.
They wanted to cheer, but it’s hard to do that when your team is losing by 20. They wanted to boo, but it’s hard to do that as well when one player is having such a historic night at the offensive end. They managed to muster up one big cheer in the second half, but it came when Jared Sullinger hit the ground hard. Ohio State’s star forward got up gingerly and was holding his right arm and flexing his wrist as he walked down the court. Sullinger said afterward that it was just a stinger, but you have to love the way Penn State fans showed their true colors by cheering for his injury. Stay classy State College.
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