Every win on the road is a good win, even if it makes your eyes tear up at the two hours of pain that you just witnessed.
First Thoughts From Ohio State's Exciting 48-39 Win at Illinois
By Tony Gerdeman
There was nothing pretty about Ohio State's win over the Illini, other than the W that came with it. Every W is pretty, as the curves are in all of the right places.
That being said, it's a good thing that the Buckeyes were playing a team as poor as Illinois, because anybody else would have had a pretty good chance of beating OSU tonight.
The good news is that even though Ohio State looked terrible in the first half, they stayed upbeat and eventually took control of the game. Though I think it's much easier to stay upbeat when you're playing Illinois, as opposed to literally anybody else.
All the Buckeyes had to do to win this game was let Illinois lose it, and it took them almost 30 minutes to figure that out.
Aaron the Aggressor. Aaron Craft opened the game very aggressively by driving to the basket a few times and scoring. He missed most of the first half with foul trouble, but it was good to see him attack a defense.
In the second half he actually had to rely on his jumper a bit, and that worked as well. Perhaps when he allows himself to warm up in the first half by scoring some points, his shot loosens up in the second half and doesn't seem so strained. The other thing that I noticed about Craft was that he was confident with his shot. He didn't hesitate, and that's not always the case with him.
Amir the Deferrer. Amir Williams only played 20 minutes in this game, and the vast majority of those minutes came in the first half. He was scoreless and only pulled down four rebounds. Meanwhile, Illinois center Nnanna Egwu was busy grabbing 14 rebounds.
Williams was so ineffective, that Thad Matta simply removed him from the equation in the second half, choosing instead to go with Trey McDonald, who wasn't much more effective, but he sure does run hard.
I don't think we'll see any changes in the starting lineup moving forward, but it's never a good sign when the coach decides the team has a better opportunity to win if you're not on the court. This might be something to watch, but I'm inclined to think that it will only involve McDonald getting a couple more minutes per game.
Shannon the Deflector. Shannon Scott got his hands on more balls than [removed due to tastelessness]. He deflected several passes and came away with five steals, which led to several fast breaks. For as difficult as scoring is for the Buckeyes, any time they can get free points off of their defense is a good thing. Sometimes it's the difference between winning and losing.
Due to Craft's foul trouble, Scott actually played more minutes than Craft, and he produced during those minutes. He may have only scored two points, but he didn't just turn into a wallflower. His shot wasn't falling (1-6), but he didn't let that define his performance, as he grabbed four rebounds, handed out three assists and came away with the aforementioned five steals.
LaQuinton the Curious. Scoring within the framework of the offense seemed difficult for LaQuinton Ross in this one. He finished with nine points, but only seemed to look at the basket when it was clear they were trying to get him involved.
Several times he had the ball down low and was effective with it. However, there weren't many attempts by him to score in their basic halfcourt offense. I think he could stand to be more aggressive on offense, but I understand that it's a thin line between being aggressive and forcing it.
This team needs to make sure every single offensive possession is used wisely, but I think allowing Ross to look for his shot a bit more wouldn't be a bad idea. And I don't see how it could possibly make the offense worse.
Quick Thoughts. ... I bet you were happy to see Marc Loving finally hit a jumper. I bet Thad Matta was even happier than you. Tonight was Loving's first made field goal since January 20th. He went six games without hitting a shot. Given how well he played during his mini-run in this game, I wonder if he has finally climbed over the freshman wall. ... I'd like to give credit to the Ohio State defense for holding Illinois to 39 points, and they do deserve some credit, but Illinois is just really, really bad. I think you could have held them under 60. ... This game was a Habitat for Humanity Special, which means that there were enough bricks produced by these two teams to build a house in under two hours.
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