That wasn’t quite as easy as Monday…
Ohio State started out slow, but pulled away in the second half to send James Madison home with a 72-44 loss. Evan Turner continued his dominance streak by putting up a Double-Double with a 24 point, 17 rebound, 4 assist and 2 steal statline. The Buckeyes as a whole, however, seemed to struggle all night long.
After consistantly hustling, moving the ball and making good shot selection against Alcorn State, the Buckeyes looked like a completely different team tonight. Credit goes to James Madison for their excellent man defense that seemed to stymie the Buckeyes initially, but the Buckeyes also seemed to look tired and unmotivated which allowed a hungry James Madison team to keep the game close near to halftime. During the half, however, the Bucks made the adjustments to completely shut James Madison down and came out with a lot more motivation and fire.
During the first half, Ohio State looked tentative about driving the lane, settling for a lot of jump shots and not pushing the ball down low to try to draw the Dukes into fouls. James Madison, on the other hand, did quite the opposite. While the Buckeyes played pretty clean Basketball and only allowed the Dukes to get to the foul line twice during the half, JMU was able to keep the game close by continually getting good penetration against the Buckeyes man defense.
Dallas Lauderdale did not start the game, Madsen continued in the starting role, but he did enter the game after the first TV timeout. Unfortunately, whether it’s because of his injury or because he was simply out of position often, he did not dominate on the boards (4 rebounds) like one might expect from a long-armed center. This has been a complaint about Lauderdale for several years, and it seemed today like he still hasn’t quite turned the corner and figured out how to control the rebounds.
Also a serious concern was Lighty’s leadership. Usually your leaders will attempt to take control of a game when the momentum starts to swing to the opponant. Lighty tried, but he did it by jacking up a couple three-pointers which are clearly not his game this season. Lighty is best when he’s getting penetration and putting it up near the hoop. He eventually started to do that a little more during the game, but I was really unhappy to see him shoot a three ball when the team clearly needed a spark. A three can be that spark, but only if you hit it, and he’s not a consistent enough shooter to provide the spark in that way.
The second half was a much better display of defensive intensity as the Buckeyes completely shut the Dukes down. Julius Wells of JMU was a force in the first half, but disappeared in the second as David Lighty took over on a defensive role. I can’t be certain Lighty wasn’t defending him in the first half, but I do know that Lighty did a wonderful job keeping him from being effective in the second. If that was an adjustment by the coaches at halftime, it was a very very good one.
The shooting was completely cold tonight as compared to Monday. The Bucks shot a respectable 45.5% (30-66) from the floor, but shot an ice-cold 4-17 (23.5%) from three. In fact, the Bucks hit only 1-7 in the first half, though the 3-10 in the second isn’t a whole lot better. This was likely due to how tired the team was. Matta admitted in the post-game interview that he had worked the team for 7 straight days and that they were probably more than a little tired in the first half. As he stated, he was thankful they had found some juice to keep themselves going and take the game away from James Madison in the second.
The place we saw the exhaustion hurt the most was on the bench. The Buckeye bench players accounted for 12 of the 72 total points for the game, 8 of the 35 rebounds and only 2 of the 13 assists. This sort of production is unacceptable from the Buckeye backups. Sure, Turner, Diebler Buford and Lighty are good enough to carry the game on their own, but against the better opponents the bench must make a better effort to be a factor in the game. Not every team is going to lie down in the second half like James Madison did.
The one positive to take away from this game was the defensive effort from the Buckeyes. No Dukes player scored double digit points (highest was 9) and they turned the ball over a total of 16 times which can be absolute murder to a team. The Dukes were also unable to score more than 20 points in the second half, shot only 30.8% (16-52) from the floor and 18.2% (4-22) from three against a defense that really began to turn it on. If the Bucks can continue to play that kind of defense, they’ll win a large majority of their games this year – including in the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes face their next challenge in exactly one week when they face-off against the #4 North Carolina Tar Heels in the third game of the 2K Sports “Coaches versus Cancer” Classic. The game will be played in Madison Square Gardens in New York City. The game will tip off at 9:00 pm on ESPN2.