First Thoughts From a 79-45 Win at Nebraska
By Tony Gerdeman
The Buckeyes are now 2-0 against the newest member of the Big Ten and have done it with extreme prejudice.
A little over two weeks ago they defeated the Cornhuskers by 31 points, and tonight they beat that number by three. It's clear that Nebraska basketball will add as much to the Big Ten as Penn State basketball did when they came in.
Speaking of Penn State, they are Ohio State's next opponent, and they signify the end of the "messing around" segment of the Buckeyes' schedule.
Of their final ten conference games, none are against bad teams. With the way the Buckeyes are running through the easy portion of their schedule, it would appear that they are hungry for some better competition. They are about to get it.
First Thought - I've tried to refrain from talking about Deshaun Thomas too much, but his defense in this game will make that a little bit hard for me.
He's constantly moving his feet on defense and his hands are never by his side or on his hips. His entire body is playing defense, but especially his eyes. He is alert and ready. Both of these aspects are improvements from last year.
His post defense was stellar, knocking away entry passes and even denying passes from being made. He is clearly having fun playing defense, and prior to this season I don't think he even thought defense could be enjoyable.
I have said all season that he is not ready for the NBA yet, but the amount of improvement that he has shown in his total game makes me think that if given a chance to focus solely on basketball, those things that he is missing from his game will come to him in the near future.
His ability to drive will continue to be a question mark, but I think I am in love with his one dribble pull-up jumper that he is on the verge of mastering. When defenses start to focus on that, he will be able to take his drives even deeper, developing his ball handling even more.
Entry Thought - There were a few moments tonight when the offense was running best when it was running through Jared Sullinger.
After the entry pass, Nebraska would bring a double team and he would look for the best guy to get it to. The first time it led to an open three-pointer by Aaron Craft.
The second time it led to Lenzelle Smith being fouled after Sullinger found him crashing to the basket.
Sullinger is the team's best player, but he's far from a black hole when he gets the ball down low. He is doing a nice job of making the proper pass, though he would probably prefer that his teammates hit a few more of the open shots that he finds for them.
Smothering Thought - Ohio State held the Huskers to 13-44 shooting and were a dominant defensive force for most of the game.
I have zero doubt that if the Buckeyes needed to hold Nebraska under 40 points in order to win, they probably would have held them to ten under that mark.
There was really very little that Nebraska could do. The Buckeyes forced them into 27 turnovers and got a hand in the face of nearly every shooter.
Even when the Buckeyes don't shoot well from the field, it may not matter when they are keyed in to playing defense.
The problem is keeping them keyed in.
And, of course, hoping that some random player doesn't have the game of their life for no reason whatsoever.
Hungry Thought - It was great to see Jordan Sibert taking the ball to the basket tonight. Known solely as a not-so-special three-point specialist to this point, he needs to show Thad Matta that he can do more on offense, and tonight he tried to do that.
He finished just 1-5, and 1-3 from three-point range, but he was aggressive. He took the ball to the basket and ended up shooting six free throws. He hadn't shot a free throw in the Buckeyes' last six games, and only had five total in their last eleven prior to tonight.
The six free throw attempts, and four makes, were both career highs. His previous high for attempts was four, which he accomplished in his very first game as a freshman last season.
Yes, he only finished 1-5 from the field, but he still managed to score seven points. In the past, if he had gone 1-5 from the field, that meant he was only scoring two or three points.
This may be a new beginning for Sibert, who is fighting for his playing-time life with Sam Thompson and Lenzelle Smith. He is clearly starving for playing time, and knows that when he isn't hitting three-pointers, his value to this team drops.
Tonight he was trying to make himself more valuable to his team, and I think he did that pretty well. But yes, actually hitting shots would make him more valuable than anything else he did tonight.
Final Thought - I loved Evan Ravenel's game tonight. For a while, he was more aggressive on offense than Sullinger was. He fought down low and was strong while doing it.
He has had some ups and downs of late, but it was good to see that even when his game struggles, his demeanor holds steady.
The Buckeyes are going to run into a stretch of games here where Jared Sullinger is going to be put into foul trouble, and Ravenel is going to have to respond to that challenge.
Tonight was a good indicator that he's up for a challenge.
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