I have watched a game and a half of Ohio State’s season in this past week, and I feel as though that makes me an expert on everything about them.
– The half a game comes from the second half of the Buckeye’s game versus Indiana on Saturday. When we (and by “we”, I mean “the entire nation of England”) joined the game, Indiana was losing by one, 59-58. God knows how, because they proceeded to show nothing at all. They had no big men, no defence, no inside game, no slashing, no spacing, and their guards just took it in turns to hoist up threes. This from the worst three-point shooting team in the conference, apparently. Still, guard Matt Roth’s performance will linger with me for a while; unlike everybody else, Roth could actually hit a three, and proved this by hitting nine of them, each from further away than the last. It was an impressive shooting performance, to say the least, and it kept Indiana in a game in which they were otherwise wildly overmatched. If ever I encounter Matt Roth again in my life, this will be the first thing that I think of. (I looked up Matt Roth on ESPN after this, to see if he was any good. He wasn’t, but I did find something fun; Roth is 40/96 on the season from three-point range, 11/13 from the free throw line….and 3/10 from two-point range. Nice. Daequan Cook is jealous.) There was literally nothing else to report from Indiana’s point of view, who are as undermanned as you’d heard they are.
– Ohio State’s seven-man rotation featured a starting line-up of Jeremie Simmons at point guard, William Buford at two guard, Jon Diebler as the other two guard, Evan Turner as both forwards and Dallas Lauderdale starting at centre. Off the bench were big man B.J. Mullens, small man P.J. Hill, and the occasional helping of Kyle Madsen. In the Indiana game, Buford and Turner did almost all of the scoring; versus Purdue, B.J. Mullens (who shot an opher versus Indy) was the third scorer. All Mullens really did, though, was catch good feeds – of his eight made field goals, four were dunks. One came from running the floor on an alley’oop, and three came from good setups by Turner and Buford. Mullens’s other field goals were a tip-in, a short put back, and a short left-handed banker that seemed slightly fortuitous. (I missed the other one. I’m assuming it was during OT, because ESPN cut away then. Either that or I was eating or something.) Buford and Turner were the standouts in both games; Buford demonstrated a fine jump shot, and that he knew how to get open for it, running to the open space and curling around screens, moving without the ball like a young Reggie Miller. (Note: Any comparison here is obviously complete and blatant embellishment, but I’m allowed to do it because commentator Steve Lavin did too. Lavin was good, by the way. Any man who can get endless food and baseball references into a college basketball game is all right by me, and would be much loved by FireJoeMorgan.com.) Turner, meanwhile, demonstrated an absolutely mint mid-range game, showing a good jump shot with a high and smooth release, a crossover, good passing skills, a willingness to mix it up on the boards, the opportunity to work himself open for shots (crossover, spin moves, moving without the ball, etc), and the ability to finish in the paint. He didn’t look particularly athletic, but he was supremely skilled. On the flipside, all Dallas Lauderdale would do was block, goaltend and foul, and his free throw technique is all kinds of broken. And although Jeremie Simmons gave the Buckeyes a ball -handler, he didn’t do much with it except throw it away occasionally. When his back-up P.J. Hill came into the game, primarily for defence, Turner did a lot of the primary ball-handling and playmaking, and was better at it than Simmons. Nevertheless, Hill worked hard on defence, disrupting a few Purdue offensive sets, and could at least get the ball over halfcourt, if not make an entry pass. Lastly, Jon Diebler took several catch-and-shoot threes throughout the two games, but missed them all. it looked, though, like he was perfectly able to make them, and that he just didn’t. If that makes sense, good luck to you.
– Purdue, meanwhile, were supposed to be a great defensive team. If they are – and the caption that says that they give up only 36% FG shooting on the season would support this – then I didn’t see it. Turner took it in turns to take Chris Kramer and E’Twaun Moore off the dribble, and Buford curled around screens all day largely unchallenged. JaJuan Johnson, Purdue’s only big man, didn’t put forth enough effort on the glass, ending up with four rebounds in 35 minutes, two of which came from missed free throws. As advertised, Kramer tried hard, and routinely harassed the Ohio State ball-handlers even as far as the halfcourt line, but he was about the only one that played any effective defence. The mid-range game was exploited by Buford and Turner all night, and the Boilermakers were caught more than once not getting back on defence, leading to easy scores. (By the way, why the hell are they called the Boilermakers? That’s just awful.)
– On offence, Purdue had two main options – give it to JaJuan Johnson on the inside, or let Keaton Grant hoist up a three. Grant had a weird night – he hit some tough shots, but also had four airballs on open looks, and ended up going 4-12 from three-point range. The only two he took was also the only time he tried to put the ball on the floor, and he hit a tough jumper from the elbow. Outside of that, all he did was hoist up threes, with the aforementioned varying results; a one-dimensional shooter with an extremely streaky jump shot. Curious. Meanwhile, Johnson looked great, showing a fall-away jump shot, a right-handed hook, the ability to go up strong, to get fouled, and to hit the free throws. He always went right, which made things predictable, but he was the team’s primary option on offence, and at times their only option. Moore didn’t do a thing offensively all game, Lewis Jackson showed good passing instincts and techniques but no real ability to get his own points, and Kramer displayed decent form on the two open threes that he took (making one) and threw himself powerfully at the rim when presented with an open driving lane, to good effect. He was particularly brave in doing so considering that he was playing with a mask for a broken nose. Bonus points for effort, tenacity, and a blatant disregard for the aesthetics of his nose.