The Bulldogs of UNC-Asheville (5-5 season coming in) paid the Buckeyes a visit in Columbus this evening and were sent home packing by a final score of 96-49. David Lighty was the player of the game, scoring 23 points in the first half and 29 for the entire game with 7-10 shooting from three. The Buckeyes were particularly impressive tonight, jumping out to a big lead, and then using their bench players to let the game get completely out of hand.
After the fast paced game against South Carolina on Saturday, this one started out feeling surprisingly slow and sluggish on both sides of the court. Both teams were careful and methodical about looking for open shots and finding good passing lanes. Of course, that doesn’t mean that players weren’t taking shots quickly. Particularly impressive was David Lighty who exploded for 13 points in the first 4 minutes of the game on 5-6 shooting (3-4 from beyond the arc).
Lighty was so effective due to the defensive assignments set by Asheville. The Bulldogs came in double teaming Sullinger down low, and essentially gluing a guy to Diebler’s jersey. The result was Lighty finding himself open more often than not, and he made Asheville pay dearly for that mistake. Clearly his quiet play the last couple games hid his potential from the Asheville coaches – or they figured Sullinger was the more important threat.
This is the massive advantage provided by this team and the personnel. There are so many offensive weapons that it’s impossible to focus on one or two players and hope to eliminate the Buckeye’s offense. Take Sullinger and Diebler away and Thomas, Lighty, and Buford could kill you.
The Bulldogs began to push the tempo a little to try to force the Buckeyes into poor defensive assignments. The strategy only worked for a couple of possessions before the Bucks adjusted mentally to the pace of the game. It wouldn’t have mattered much anyway as the Buckeyes were packing three pointers down the hoop as fast as they could put them up, hitting 5-8 through the quarter of the game.
With a 21 point lead and ten minutes to play in the half, Matta went to his bench quickly. Sibert, Thomas, Craft, Sullinger and Lighty saw time together on the court, giving the freshmen valuable game time when the game could still change. Surprisingly, the chemistry on the court was nearly as good with the four freshmen as it normally is with the four veteren starters. That’s a very good sign for the future.
Towards the end of the half, Asheville switched their defensive strategy to a much more aggressive style. They began to force the Buckeyes to play beyond the arc against their quick 2-3 zone which had caused repeated turnovers in the paint. The Bulldogs benefitted off a few of those turnovers as well, which were committed by the veteren Buckeyes, starting a small run that saw the gap close to 15. The zone sealed away the inside, preventing Sullinger from directly influencing the game, but also didn’t open up the perimeter as you would normally expect. The quick defensive play made it tough for the OSU shooters to get open looks.
At the half, Asheville was beating David Lighty by a score of 24-23. The Buckeyes as a whole held a 48-24 lead, made only that close due to some defensive adjustments in the middle of the half by UNC. As a team, the Buckeyes shot 58.8% (20-34) from the floor and 50% (7-14) from three. Comparatively, Asheville shot 39.3% (11-28) with 22.2% (2-9) from three. The player of the half was none other than David Lighty’s 9-12 shooting, including 5-7 from three for 23 points.
The Buckeyes came out of the half sluggishly, allowing Asheville to power their way to an 8-0 run in the first couple minutes. The scoring run was bookend by a couple of nice three pointers, including a pull-up jumper for three that caught the defender completely off-guard. Part of the problem was caused by a defensive adjustment from Asheville as they switched into a close man defense that the Buckeyes had trouble handling.
Lighty and Craft lit the fire beneath the Buckeyes eventually. Both knocked down big three pointers to start to take the wind out of the Bulldogs’ sails. Then, after Craft hit his three, he made a great defensive play on the inbounds that forced an Asheville turnover. It brought the Bucks back to the realization that they had to continue to take the Bulldogs seriously through the entire game.
The teams began to settle into a back and forth game with each other late in the second half. Personnel changes did not substantially affect the strategy on the court, and the Asheville coach had finally found a defensive set that limited OSU’s scoring advantage. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, it allowed the Buckeyes to build on their lead slowly but surely. Upon realizing that, Eddie Biedenbach – Asheville’s coach – began to stress urgency on the offensive end. Asheville began an aggressive attacking of the basket on the offensive end, but it didn’t cause a major change on the scoreboard.
With 8 minutes left, Matta got Weatherspoon and Smith into the game with Lauderdale (and his 4 fouls) along with Sibert and Thomas. The lineup continued to build on the lead, and changed the game from “well in hand” to “competely out of control”.
David Lighty was the scoring leader for the day, hitting 11-16 for 29 points, including 7-10 from three. He was joined in double digits by Buford (14) and Thomas (13) for the Buckeyes. For Asheville, Primm (15), Cunningham (13) and Stephenson (11) made it to double figures. The Buckeyes shot 39-69 (56.5%) for the game and 11-24 (45.8%) from three. Asheville could only manage 21-57 (36.8%) and 4-17 (23.5%) respectively against the tough Buckeye defense.
The Buckeyes next face Oakland on Thursday, December 23rd at 8:00 PM Eastern Time. You’ll be able to see that game on the Big Ten Network.