First Thoughts From a 58-52 Win at Wisconsin
By Tony Gerdeman
There's something to be said for getting a medical procedure done that includes the cutting or tearing of flesh, and doing it without the aid of painkillers.
Every year when Ohio State's basketball schedule comes out, I immediately check it to see how many times we have to be subjected to the torture of watching Wisconsin basketball.
I used to be able to watch those games while also "medicating" myself with twelve ounces of painkillers at a time. But since I no longer do that, I've had to resort to slapping a thick piece of leather in my mouth and biting down for two hours.
This is no life for a sports fan.
This is the life for a sports sadist.
Watching Wisconsin pass the ball around the perimeter for 20 seconds before finally giving the ball to Jordan Taylor to then run a pick and roll is a lousy way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
But at least the first one is done, and the next one shouldn't be as ocularly detrimental.
Jared Sullinger started this game with a single purpose in mind—domination. He lived up to that purpose early on, scoring Ohio State's first nine points, and doing it with ease.
He finished the game with 24 points on 8-16 shooting, as well as 8-10 from the free throw line. He always had an answer for the Badgers. He forced shots at times, but he also knew he would be getting fouled.
His understanding of the game is at least on par with his actual basketball ability, and likely above it. That is why even when he forces shots, they are still near the rim and have a great chance to somehow fall in.
His court awareness in regards to the location of the basket can never be talked about enough. People question who takes the last shot for this team in a close game, and while it might not be Sullinger, he should at the very least be the guy who makes that decision when the time comes.
Swiss Army Thought
People will watch this game and see nothing appealing about it, but I saw an Ohio State team that found yet another way to win a difficult game.
The backcourt was non-existent for about 30 minutes, and frequently a detriment in those 30 minutes. Wisconsin slowed the ball down, and the Buckeyes slowed right down with them.
They played Badgerball on Wisconsin's home court, and played it better than Bo Ryan's team did.
It's always nice when a team has a specific style of basketball that they play, and they get good at it, but it's even better when a team is able to play any style that comes their way.
I believe Michigan slowed it down against the Buckeyes as well, and I mentioned at the time that slowing the ball down against this defense only plays into Ohio State's hands.
Not only is there no pressure on the defense, but they can almost conserve themselves for 15 or 20 seconds on each possession, and then really get after it.
Wouldn't it make more sense to force a defense to guard you for an entire possession, and not just the last ten seconds? And even then, it only takes two players to defend those last fleeting moments since it was almost always a pick and roll.
William Buford's basketball thought process this season continues to baffle me.
When he leads a fastbreak, it is neither fast nor a break, and any advantage eventually goes away before points can be found.
On two or three instances, Buford made a poor decision in transition that either led to him missing a quick shot or turning it over. Wisconsin then answered with a basket each time, one of which was a three-point basket, causing four and five-point turnarounds that never should have happened.
He shot 4-15 from the field, but that will happen for jump shooters. What shouldn't happen is rookie mistakes from a senior that has been a starter since he was a freshman.
While Buford struggled for much of the game, he found his moment to be clutch in the later moments, and ran with it.
His three-pointer following a Sullinger steal with 2:28 remaining made it 54-50, and gave the Buckeyes the breathing room that they desperately needed in such a hostile environment.
But Buford wasn't the only guard on the roster to struggle on the day. Both Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith were quiet for most of the game. Neither scored in the first half, and Smith never even took a shot.
However, like Buford, they too came through in the clutch.
Shortly after Buford's three, Smith forced a travel on the turnover-phobic Jordan Taylor.
Craft then followed that Taylor turnover with two free throws with 58 seconds to play, pushing the Ohio State lead out to 56-50.
Buford then finished off the backcourt closeout with two free throws of his own, sealing the final score at 58-52.
A group of guards that seemed to lay dormant for most of the game were apparently just biding their time while waiting for a kill shot.
However, nobody said that kill shot has to take place 39 minutes into a game.
Ohio State's power forwards struggled on defense today. It was disappointing to see Deshaun Thomas take a step back from where he had been of late.
However, some credit should go to Ryan Evans, who has some skill and versatility to his game.
The Buckeyes will run into better players than Evans in the future, and Thomas will need to be ready.
I'm not sure Evan Ravenel will be though.
Granted, Jared Sullinger is a beast to defend, but when Smith and Craft aren't shooting, and Buford is missing, the Buckeyes become a very guardable team. This needs to be addressed.
Craft and Smith can score, we've seen it. They don't need to become prolific, but they do need to become more aggressive.
Both guys can get into the paint fairly well, and they should never go an entire half with neither doing it. It puts absolutely zero pressure on a defense, and the Buckeyes aren't the kind of team that should be giving opponents breaks.
Instead, they should be breaking opponents.
Is there anything worse in sports than watching Ohio State play defense for 35 seconds against the Badger offense only to see Wisconsin get an offensive rebound, and then have to watch it all over again?
Actually, I just thought of something worse—Badger offensive linemen holding.
Shannon Scott continues to provide solid minutes for the Buckeyes, and he is doing it when they need it most.
He got early minutes against the Badgers, and now that he's this deep into his freshman season, the moment wasn't too big for him.
He defended, he dished. He had two assists in the first half, and didn't let Jordan Taylor take advantage of him when Craft was on the bench.
You can see that he is a different player than he was six weeks ago. His confidence and ability is catching up with his vision.
If he was getting Aaron Craft's minutes, I have very little doubt that he would be leading the Big Ten in assists per game.
Now he just has to get his shot falling again.
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