Five Things We Learned in a Buckeye Garden Party
By John Porentas
1) The Buckeyes need Lenzelle Smith to score if they want to win. Lenzelle didn's score for 39 minutes, and for 39 minutes it looked bleak. He put up nine points in the last minute of the game, and the Buckeyes were three point winners. Without his scoring teams can defend LaQuinton Ross the way they defended Deshaun Thomas last year. With his (Smith's) scoring, it doesn't matter, because Smith picks up the slack if the opposition is succesful with Ross. Ross scored a team-high 16 points against Notre Dame, but it took him 17 shots to do it. He became a volume scorer, not an efficient one. More help from Smith earlier in the game may have changed that. Lenzelle as a scorer is a very, very important component to this team's offense.
2) Smith succeeded against Notre Dame when a lot of other people would have failed. What was remarkable in my mind was the level of confidence he was able to display in that last minute after 39 minutes of frustration. His level of maturity is amazing. That was a tough set of circumstances for him, yet he came through with flying colors. Despite a scoring drought during the entire game, he calmly stepped up and made crucial free throw after crucial free throw to put the game in the win column. Not many other players could have made those shots after such a miserable 39 minutes, but Smith did.
3) Defense is still the key for this team. As important as Smith's last minute of play was, it was the two steals that resulted in two quick baskets to cut the lead from eight to four that really made the difference. Without those steals, Notre Dame runs out the clock and the Smith never has a chance to be a hero. Those steals and subsequent scores were really the story of the game. The rest was just the details of how it all played out after that piviotal moment. Craft also made a defensive play down the stretch to prevent an easy basket attempt by the Irish and instead cause a turnover.
4) The Buckeyes have heart. We haven't seen this team face a whole lot of adversity this season but they got a full dose of it against Notre Dame. The Buckeyes were looking defeat right square in the eye and could have just gone all fetal position and given in. They didn't do that. Instead, they fought and clawed and came out with a win. It isn't likely that they or any other team will go undefeated this season, but if they can maintain that attitude losses will be held to a minimum and they could be a very tough out at tournament time.
5) It's better to be playing with upper classmen than with freshmen. The Buckeyes are starting two seniors and three juniors this year, and number one sub Sam Thompson is also a junior. Those veterans remained rock steady even when things could have gotten all scattery while shots weren't falling in the second half. Freshman Marc Loving looked like the stage kind of got to him, which is nothing to be ashamed of. It was a big game in a daunting venue, and Loving showed some freshman jitters. Notre Dame freshman Steve Vasturia missed the front end of a one and one with 31 seconds to play. Had he made two, the game may have played out differently, but the first year player misfired while OSU senior Lenzelle Smith just kept making clutch free throw after clutch free throw. Experience makes a difference. It really does.
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