First Thoughts From a 79-74 Loss at Illinois
By Tony Gerdeman
Sometimes it just doesn't matter what you do when somebody else is doing more.
That was Brandon Paul against the Buckeyes.
Paul scored 43 points on just 15 field goal attempts. It was to efficiency what Brandon Paul scoring 43 points was to the world's most unlikely thing to ever happen.
How amazing was his performance? Not even Illinois coach Bruce Weber could stop him.
To paraphrase a terrible saying from a sometimes terrible man, if the unbelievable is inevitable, you may as well sit back and enjoy it.
Thad Matta tried every possible combination to stop Paul tonight and Paul turned around and lit each one of them on fire with thunderbolts from his arse.
It was an amazing performance to say the least. However, it was also a performance that came a bit too easy on his part. But by the time the Ohio State defense had finally gotten serious about him, it was too late and he had already bought into the fact that he was on fire.
Over Paul's previous three games he had scored just 38 points total, and that's probably what he'll score over his next three. But tonight he scored 43, and Ohio State was powerless to do anything about it.
First Thought - Only two Buckeyes shot free throws in this game. Jared Sullinger went 1-2 and Deshaun Thomas went 6-7.
How in the world does Sullinger only get two free throw opportunities, especially when he takes 16 field goal attempts?
A few more free looks would have certainly helped the Buckeyes tonight, and would have likely sealed the deal.
However, the Buckeyes also need to instigate such things and make it a point to be aggressive and get to the basket.
It was amazing that in a Big Ten game, Illinois was only called for ten fouls and Ohio State was only called for 15. We've seen games where those are the numbers in the first half.
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, however, they don't really have players who can force defenders to foul them unless they're in the post.
Aaron Craft is the only regular on the team who can drive to the basket and get fouled. Everybody else basically needs to get the ball down low and simply battle to score.
When that's the case, an offense has to work harder to score all game long. That brings about fatigue and makes the final minutes ones in which scoring is tougher than normal.
We saw it tonight when Aaron Craft turned the ball over late to seal the game for the Illini.
A team with this much offensive talent shouldn't have to work so hard to score. And the fact that they only had ten assists tells me they weren't interested in finding the best available shot.
Defensive Thought - Illinois shot 60% from the field in this game. In fact, they shot exactly 60% in each half. In other words, they were consistent throughout.
Yes, Brandon Paul hit some very tough shots, but he only took 15 of his team's 45 shots. He wasn't the only one doing damage.
As much as this was a team effort by the Illinois offense, it was also a team effort, or lack thereof, by the Ohio State defense.
One guy doesn't score 43 points without everybody letting him do it in one way or another.
Bench Thought - Thad Matta reverted back to the short bench that he has become known for. Freshman Sam Thompson, the first player off the bench for Matta, was the only reserve to play more than six minutes.
He finished with 18 minutes, but like the rest of the bench he failed to score. I like seeing Thompson with these kinds of minutes, but he certainly showed some nervous tendencies when he was given the ball on offense.
I have no doubts that Thompson will eventually be a very, very good offensive player. It was surprising, however, that Jordan Sibert didn't get a single minute in this game.
I don't assume that will become a regular occurrence. Instead, I see it as more of a situation where Matta needed a defensive shooting guard instead of one who specializes in offense and struggles on defense.
Of course, with the way that Sibert has been shooting, his offense has been as much of a liability as his defense.
I don't see him become a bench fixture simply because they will still need his shooting this season, and he'll need to work his way out of his slump somehow.
While we're on the topic of the bench, I love having Thompson and J.D. Weatherspoon on the floor together jumping around like the court is their own personal bounce house.
It gives the Buckeyes amazing athleticism and combines them with starters like Craft, Buford and Sullinger.
But they didn't provide any scoring, and even though Thompson had some nice moments on defense against Paul, they just can't afford to get nothing from their bench on the road.
Unfamiliar Territory Thought - Around the eleven-minute mark Deshaun Thomas took a quick shot and I couldn't tell if the Buckeyes were playing panicked or determined.
It's a thin like between the two and I'm guessing the only difference is that when you're panicked, you miss. When you're determined, you make it.
Then, as the game wore on, there seemed to be more panic creeping in. Yes, this is a young team, so mistakes can be understood, but it's also a very experienced young team.
After all, Aaron Craft is not your average sophomore. He's played tons of minutes in his first year and a half on campus. He is an experienced player.
They shouldn't be making freshman mistakes late in close games, but they do. And that very much includes the lone senior on the team, William Buford.
Also, I'm still not sure what's going on with Craft this season, other than maybe we simply expected too much from him based on his freshman season. After all, the sophomore slump exists for a reason.
His inexplicable turnovers are becoming more explicable by the day, and that's not good.
Offensive Thought - I enjoy learning new things about Deshaun Thomas' vast offensive game, and on Tuesday night I learned that he had a baseline turnaround fade away.
And then I learned that he had a secondary move into a hook shot off of that.
Almost better than the array of shots that Thomas has is the way he sets them up with previous shots, and then goes away from what defenses have seen previously.
If he is around for four years he'll have a doctorate in basketball psychology when he leaves.
Final Thought - I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't point out that I called Brandon Paul's final three before it happened.
Sometimes you just see enough spooky things to know that events are about to get even weirder.
Plus, it wouldn't be an Ohio State loss without some average Joe going all Crispin on the Buckeyes.
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