COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was never a moment in this game that didn't feel like it was already being played in the postseason.
First Thoughts From Ohio State's 69-67 Win Over Michigan State
By Tony Gerdeman
This game was every bit as intense as a Big Ten Tournament game, which should have the Buckeyes feeling pretty good about their future later in the week.
There were times when Ohio State could have begun wilting, and you could probably argue that that actually happened, but they never stayed wilting for long. They fought back repeatedly, and it was never that easy to do so.
Once Michigan State went on their 12-0 run to take a seven-point lead, the Buckeyes spent the rest of the game scrapping back time after time.
It seemed like Ohio State wasn't allowed to take the lead, even when they had good looks, and that included free throws.
The irony of the situation is that the Buckeyes had to work damn hard to win this game, and it was almost lost due to so many unobstructed looks from the free throw line.
That's like two heavyweight boxers going at it for 11 rounds, and the guy in the lead slipping on some sweat and knocking himself out on the fall.
Even though the free throws left them late, what didn't leave was their defense. I was taken back to earlier in the season when you knew that their defense was always going to be present. Down the stretch, it was absolutely everywhere.
The Spartans went the final 4:30 of the game without scoring. They scored just four points over the game's final 6:56. Ohio State forced five turnovers in those final seven minutes, which led to six points.
The Box Score is a Liar. If you look at Shannon Scott's numbers in the box score, you'll see that he scored seven points on 2-6 shooting and didn't have a single assist. Pretty average numbers overall, if you were to believe the box score.
However, since you watched the game, you know that the box score doesn't tell the story of the game's finally seven minutes when Scott was tipping passes and forcing turnovers. Nor does it tell the timing of his three-pointer and layup to tie the game at 65-65.
I'd say he single-handedly sparked the Buckeyes, but I'd be lying because he used both hands to do it.
I was actually surprised when I saw how pedestrian Scott's stat line was. It might be time to include a new stat: "Does this player's team win without him?" For Scott and the Buckeyes, that answer would absolutely be no.
A Fitting Senior Day. The lasting memory of this game may very well be Aaron Craft diving on a ball and calling a timeout in the game's final minute. Craft landed hard on the basketball and the fall would have likely broken the ribs of a normal man, but we all know that Aaron Craft is no normal man.
Even though Craft has not had the senior season that most had hoped or expected, today's game showed precisely why his presence will always be welcomed by a coaching staff. It also showed precisely why it will be missed by the Buckeyes next season.
Lenzelle Smith may have only been 3-10 from the field, but he led the team with eight rebounds and was second with four assists. It was an all around performance from Smith, which describes his usual game pretty well. He was also right there at the end defending a put back to tie the game by Adreian Payne.
Both players will be missed for different reason, and congratulations to them both for ending their home careers in strong fashion.
Ross Redeems. If you'll think back to the last time these two teams played, LaQuinton Ross was absolutely neutralized by Branden Dawson's athleticism. In that game he scored just five points and was 1-7 from the field. He wasn't able to drive or get free, and when he did find a shot, it was rushed.
Today, however, Ross came into this game with something to prove. He scored 22 points on 9-15 shooting and took the ball right at both Dawson and Payne. He was aggressive throughout the game, but didn't necessarily force poor shots. This game had to give him some confidence moving forward, just as the last time out against the Spartans had to take some confidence from him.
Quick Thoughts. Not sure what to say about the free throws at the end other than the Buckeyes are lucky they play great defense. Though that's probably not really considered "luck". ... This was a high quality game for all 40 minutes. It was the type of game that could convince you that the Buckeyes could find their way back into the Sweet 16 again this year. They are getting good minutes from more than a few players right now, which is all they've ever needed. They just need to continue shooting decently. ... When Sam Thompson dribbles from the top of the key to the wing to hand the ball off, I'd like to see him turn it up towards the basket because they aren't defending it. He could easily get an elbow jumper, or a six-foot floater. ... The defense on Keith Appling and Gary Harris was fantastic to watch, as it always is. Aaron Craft talked earlier in the week about how much fun he has playing against the Spartans, and you saw every bit of that joy in this one. ... Adreian Payne is an absolute matchup nightmare for the Buckeyes. Their only hope is for him to tire himself out, or drive the ball at him to get him into foul trouble. The Buckeyes actually tried the latter a bit, with mixed success. ... I think I've figured out the problem with the hands on Amir Williams. Think of it as though his brain is streaming content, but his hands are always a split second behind. In other words, they're buffering. Maybe the Schott just needs a better wifi connection?
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