First Thoughts From an 87-84 Win Over Purdue
By Tony Gerdeman
High-scoring games are difficult to get used to in the Big Ten, so when they happen, there's a lot to digest.
The gist of tonight's shootout was that Ohio State couldn't defend the ball screen at the top of the key and Purdue went to town on it.
However, as was expected, the Buckeyes got better at defending it in the second half. Purdue shot 14-23 (61%) in the first half and 14-31 (45%) in the second half.
People will begin to panic about this defensive performance, and if Ohio State was going to defend like this every time out, they'd be justified in their fire sale. However, this game was more likely an aberration, rather than an indication of things to come.
Coaches self-scout their own team as much as they scout other teams. The problems on defense tonight will be handled with extreme prejudice. And likely with a lot of running.
Photo by Jim Davidson
I've said it for years, but there are few things prettier than a William Buford jumper when it's going in. Tonight, he put on a beauty pageant.
He finished with a career-high 29 points on 10-17 shooting, and the Buckeyes needed every last one of those baskets.
Tied at 73-73 with under five minutes to play, and with both Aaron Craft and Jared Sullinger on the bench, Buford went on a 7-0 run of his own, stroking jumpers like everybody always knew he could.
The team needed somebody to step up, and the senior from Toledo certainly did, but he had 20 points before that moment ever even came, meaning that he was terrific from the opening jump.
After seeing Buford struggle so much of late, it was very good to see him dialed in and being aggressive on offense. He wasn't just aggressive, he was smart. He took intelligent shots and didn't put his team in a position to fail, which has been a problem over the last month.
Perhaps Buford has finally turned the corner. He realizes that his career only has about fifteen or so games left in it, so he better turn it up a notch.
Consider this notch cranked to eleven.
Photo by Jim Davidson
I've talked about it before, but I wonder if Deshaun Thomas will ever get to the point this season when his first shot isn't two-feet longer than it needs to be.
Thad Matta needs to draw up a three-point attempt for Thomas as the first play out of the gate, and then have two offensive rebounders waiting for the shot to go long.
Then, after the offensive rebound, the offense gets reset and Thomas gets his shot rotated and recalibrated. It's a very simple procedure.
As well as the Boilermakers shot tonight, the Buckeyes were lucky that Robbie Hummel wasn't among the sharpshooters.
Deshaun Thomas and Evan Ravenel struggled defending their fellow power forwards against Wisconsin, and the same thing happened again tonight. Their only saving grace was that Hummel no longer has knee bones and he went 4-13 from the field.
This is still a very good defensive team, but a skilled four is going to be tough for this team to handle. People think the loss of Jon Diebler hurts, but the Buckeyes shot 9-16 from three-point territory tonight. The bigger loss might be a guy like David Lighty, who can guard anybody, from guard Kelsey Barlow to Hummel the forward.
Speaking of Barlow, he got to the basket consistently against Aaron Craft. He used his size and length to get an edge, and then his athleticism would carry him past Craft and to the basket.
Late in the game, when Barlow was driving on everybody, Matta put freshman Sam Thompson on Barlow, and Thompson shut him down cold.
Barlow couldn't move, let alone get to the basket. Every time he would look to shoot, Thompson was there to smother him and prevent a shot.
In the odd instance when Barlow still wanted to shoot, Thompson was there to reject both the shot and the notion.
Thad Matta needed an answer for Barlow, and it wasn't his defensive wizard point guard who provided it--it was his jumping jack freshman.
You had to love Ohio State and Aaron Craft's answer to Barlow's dunk on Sullinger.
Obviously Craft felt a little responsible for the dunk because he was the initial defender, so on the next possession he forced a turnover, which started a 12-0 run for the Buckeyes.
Craft scored seven of those points as he was obviously trying to make up for his defensive lapse. You know, if you think about it, it might be nice for this offense if he felt bad about his defense more often.
How do I know the Buckeyes took Purdue lightly? They wore their white uniforms. They wear gray for big games, and they obviously didn't consider the Boilermakers to be a big game.
Am I looking too hard here? Am I making too much out of nothing? Possibly, but if the Buckeyes were serious about this game, don't you think they would have been in gray?
It should be mentioned that when Aaron Craft left with his fourth foul, there was 9:18 remaining in the game. The score was tied at 64-64.
Shannon Scott came in for Craft, and there was a concern surrounding him and whether or not he would be able to handle the responsibility.
Well, when Craft returned to the game nearly eight minutes later, Ohio State was sitting on an 80-75 lead.
Yes, most of the credit goes to William Buford, but much of a point guard's role on offense is to simply make sure good things happen, regardless of who is actually doing the scoring.
Scott did his share as well. He led the team with three assists and only committed one turnover.
I've probably said this before, but when William Buford is on, nobody else needs to be. The rest of the team simply needs to be average.
Because of the hurt that he can put on a defense, he just needs to be complemented, not "partnered-up" with. In fact, much of the time, he just needs people who will get out of his way.
His teammates stayed out of his way at just the right time tonight.
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