Ohio State Defeats Illinois 83-67

Written February 21st, 2012 by Eric

The student section was rocking the #Hop2theRafters t-shirts.

Coming off their fifth loss of the season, the Buckeyes looked to bounce back at home against the struggling Fighting Illini. Unfortunately for Illinois, they simply did not have the horses to keep up with the intense Ohio State attack, and fell 83-67 in Columbus. Meyers Leonard of Illinois led all scorers with 21 points, while Deshaun Thomas led the Buckeyes with 19. William Buford and Aaron Craft rounded out the OSU double digit scorers with 17 and 11 respectively – a solid game from the Buckeye’s leaders.

The Buckeye Nuthouse was proudly sporting shirts that read “Retire #32″ tonight. The shirts were in honor of Dennis Hopson and his excellent career for the Scarlet and Gray in the mid-80′s. To see the students supporting OSU history so enthusiastically was amazing, and I’m proud of the passion that they have shown for Hopson.

The Buckeyes came out of the gate very determined to earn the win tonight. The team played with amazing energy and intensity from the outset. Their passes were sharp and crisp, and placed where only the intended recipient could recieve it. Even better, the Buckeyes were finding open shooters and making great shot selection. The best was William Buford’s shot fake from above the charity stripe that turned into a pass to an open Aaron Craft for three, putting Illinois down by double digits and forcing Bruce Weber into an early timeout.

Thad Matta mixed up the bench rotations in a big way. Instead of having Shannon Scott come in solely for Aaron Craft as we have seen all season long, Scott came in and played the two for Lenzelle Smith. That allowed the Buckeyes to have a pair of good ball control point guards in the game. We also saw Sam Thompson come into the game for Buford early and get quality playing time, including an amazing one handed tomahawk ally-oop from the aforementioned Scott.

The Fighting Illini entered the game playing like they had no fight in them at all. The Buckeyes opened the first 10 minutes of the game shooting an obscene 91% from the floor. Illinois’ defense simply looked like they had no answer for what the Buckeyes wanted to do. Worse yet, Illinois couldn’t figure out how to get their own offense going on the other end of the court, shooting an abysmal 23% overall. That sort of differential in the shooting percentage is not a good way to start a basketball game period, let alone against one of the top team’s in the conference on *their* home court.

A change in defensive strategy by Bruce Weber helped Illinois slow down the OSU offensive onslaught. By playing a 3/4s court trap defense, where they play defense for most of the court and attempt to trap the ball handler at half-court, they forced the Bucks into several turnovers and a couple ugly rushed shots.

Ohio State responded by speeding up their offense and looking ahead for open passing lanes to beat the trap. By doing so, they were able to take the Illinois defense off-balance and find some better, more open looks at the basket. DeShaun Thomas in particular dropped a great outside three after calling for the ball. He knew that his defender was playing off of him, and that he’d have an excellent opportunity for an open shot.

DeShaun Thomas had yet another excellent day.

With the Buckeyes running with varying lineups from the bench the Illini managed to put together an 8-0 run. Part of the success was in running their offense with OSU running the talented, but inexperienced, Amir Williams down low. Meyers Leonard abused Williams on several occasions, occasionally luring him out of the paint so that Williams couldn’t use his height and talent to change shots down low.

Neither team emerged from the half playing smart basketball. Both teams committed cheap turnovers, and the defensive intensity was lacking after a much more impressive first half. OSU’s sluggishness on defense allowed Illinois to get a couple second chance baskets with some bad boxing out. It also allowed an Illinois shooter to fumble a pass, collect himself, and still put up a shot (that he missed). Three OSU defenders stood in the paint, with no Illinois players around, and watched the shot go up without making a move to contest the basket.

The focus reasserted itself after the first television timeout. It would be unsurprising if Thad Matta spent the entire timeout talking about how important it is to continue to maintain concentration and play all 40 minutes. That is even more true in the Big Ten, where any team can beat you on any given night if you relax off of them.

As if to prove the point, Illinois had an excellent opportunity to make a big comeback down 17 in the middle of the second half. After two quick fouls, including a horribly called flagrant foul after an incidental elbow contact to Meyers Leonard’s chin, Jared Sullinger was forced to go to the bench. With Sully sitting Leonard had a chance to impose his will on this game in a big way. Unfortunately, the Illini didn’t seem to be able to take advantage of his strength in the paint. Rather than watching an Illinois comeback, the Buckeyes instead opened the lead ever wider.

After Sullinger managed to return to the game he shortly committed his fifth foul, but not until after scoring a few points down low and drawing a couple fouls. Once Sullinger had to bow out, Matta immediately began reaching into his bench. Guys like Sibert, Weatherspoon, Ross, and McDonald got a chance to see the court in the late game and play a little. It was good experience for them as a whole, after several tough games of having to stay on the bench.

The Buckeyes shot 32-48 (66.7%) from the floor and 7-13 (53.8%) from the three point arc, much better than they’ve been shooting the last few games. Illinois responded with 23-60 (38.3%) and 3-18 (16.7%) respectively. The Buckeyes outrebounded Illinois 32-27, but lost the offensive boards battle 11-5.

Getting a win like this, no matter who the opponent was, was very important for this Buckeyes team – especially with Sullinger having to sit for a critical stretch. In a tough run of games, with two losses in their last three, confidence must have been lacking. The Bucks needed to focus and come out firing on all cylinders and prove to themselves that they really are this good. More importantly, it emphasized the importance of working hard in practice and how that translates to quality play on the court.

Ohio State will next play the Wisconsin Badgers at home in Value City Arena on Sunday, February 26th at 4:00 PM EST. You’ll be able to see the game on CBS.

14 Comments

  1. MackNo Gravatar
    February 22nd, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Is Evan Ravenel on the team? The reason I ask this is b/c based on your writeup you wouldn’t think that he had the best game off the bench yesterday (in regards to his 6pts 2 rebs, ast in nine minutes) offensively and defensively. I have to be honest, it has became evident that you Ohio based sports writers have clearly taken your most consistent bench player (Evan) throughout the year for granted, and instead you’d rather talk about Amir getting abused and Sam’s alley oops. Sorry excuse for a writeup.

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    EricNo Gravatar
    February 22nd, 2012 at 8:58 am

    I have to be honest, it has became evident that you Ohio based sports writers have clearly taken your most consistent bench player (Evan) throughout the year for granted, and instead you’d rather talk about Amir getting abused and Sam’s alley oops.

    Michigan based.

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    JimNo Gravatar
    February 22nd, 2012 at 9:25 am

    You’re holding back, Mack. It’s not healthy to bottle things up inside, so tell us how you really feel.

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  2. MackNo Gravatar
    February 22nd, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Just stating the obvious. I’m a Buckeye fan living in the SE, and have been following the season and media coverage very closely. Evan, has been by far slighted the most for his contribution to this year’s team. Couple that with the fact that it has taken damn near the whole year for Shannon Scott to play and I have to say there is an obvious bias to support and talk up the Mid-West kids (don’t think Tony Parker doesn’t see and hear about this stuff, remember Shannon’s dad is a pretty influential guy down in Georgia for sure).

    If I’m not talking sensibly, please advise why there was no mention of Evan’s contributions in this game (sheesh, even Trey McDonald got noted). Why do you all think that when Jared left the game, the lead expanded? Sure, the Illini suck, but some of that credit has to be given to Evan for at the very least steadying the ship defensively and working hard setting screens and freeing guys up on offense. Just think the kid deserves better from the OSU faithful.

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    EricNo Gravatar
    February 22nd, 2012 at 10:59 am

    I appreciate your position, but I don’t appreciate you accusing all “ohio based writers” of taking him for granted because you read one recap that failed to mention his contribution. (Not to mention claiming that it’s a sorry excuse for a recap because of that. I would love to see more constructive criticism of my writing, but that is far from “constructive”.)

    I happen to notice that you didn’t accuse me of failing to mention Lenzelle Smith’s role in the game, even though my only mention of him was being removed for Shannon Scott. He scored 7 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists incidentally. Am I taking him for granted too?

    If you want to express that you’re disappointed in how we’re writing about Evan Ravenel, or not writing about him as the case may be, that’s fine. Do not show up and accuse every single Ohio based sports writer of taking him for granted because of what I have written. I am certainly not, and neither is anyone else.

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  3. PaulNo Gravatar
    February 22nd, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Does anyone know why Q Ross doesn’t play? Academics …defense…?

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    EricNo Gravatar
    February 22nd, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Could be a couple of reasons. Given the fact that he had to show up to practices late, he’s probably still a bit behind everyone else in understanding what has to be done. That’s probably especially true for his defensive play.

    If I had to take a guess, it would be one of “defensive ability” and “practice mentality”. Those seem to be the two major reasons that Matta keeps kids on the bench.

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  4. MackNo Gravatar
    February 22nd, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Actually Eric, I was speaking specifically to the bench (last I checked Lenzelle was a starter). I’m sure if you look over the entire landscape of the coverage that has taken place this year in regards to this team you would agree that our leading player off the bench this year (in terms of consistency on both ends of the floor) is our transfer from BC. However rarely do we hear any of that, we hear so much more about our young pups, who quite frankly are not ready to contribute in big time situations. Each one of these kids are athletes playing at a big time program, they should all get there proper due, particularly when they are regular contributors to our team.

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    EricNo Gravatar
    February 22nd, 2012 at 11:47 am

    I don’t agree with that at all. We here at the BBC have worked hard to appreciate the efforts of every single player on this team (last night’s recap not withstanding). A quick search of the site (top right) for “Evan Ravenel” will demonstrate any number of recaps that have given him ample credit for his effort.

    For example: http://www.thebuckeyebattlecry.com/2011/10/2011-basketball-preview-evan-ravenel/

    You will also notice that despite not being mentioned, his name was included among the tags for the game.

    Also, any number of sportswriters outside of our little corner of the blogosphere have taken the time to talk about his effort for this team backing up Jared Sullinger. A thankless (as you point out) and difficult task.

    Does he get the kind of credit he probably deserves? No, of course not. You’re not wrong to want more coverage for him. But, coming in and attacking a blog that does it’s best to mention everyone’s effort as often as possible (as you point out, I mentioned even Trey McDonald, the literal “last guy off the bench”) for missing Ravenel’s contribution in one game seems faintly ridiculous.

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    KenNo Gravatar
    February 22nd, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    E,
    Well, I did a back-o-the-envelope name count and seems like you named almost everyone. In addition to the aforementioned, you may have omitted Chris Jent, and I did see him draw up a few plays on the sidelines. Hell, you even mentioned Dennis Hopson twice, and he hasn’t suited up in years. And Myers Leonard FOUR times (more than anyone but Sully). :)

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  5. MackNo Gravatar
    February 22nd, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Dually noted. Ultimately its your blog. Write what you want. I’m just providing a little perspective. BTW its pretty sad that you say he has gotten writeups on here throughout the season, however the best link you could find was the basketball preview series (which I thought was well done), which was done for all the players (pretty much proves my point).

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    MaliBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    February 22nd, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Appreciate your feedback, Mack- let us know when you’re interested in writing a guest post.

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  6. Joe LaingNo Gravatar
    February 22nd, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Not trying to speak for Eric but I will say his write ups are very well written. I think at this point in the season everyone understands what we are getting from Evan. He provides solid bench minutes, he isn’t going to surprise anyone so when writing up a write up or discussing and breaking down the game it is more likely that things like alley oop dunks, good minutes from a high potential freshmen, and things of that nature will be discussed. That doesn’t mean that Evan isn’t a very integral part of the team because he wasn’t mentioned in a write up.

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  7. Joe D.No Gravatar
    February 22nd, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Wow Mack, Obviously you don’t know Eric’s position on Evan very well.

    Sorry to burst your bubble but, he is has been high on his talent all season long — probably more than anyone here that writes about basketball.

    By the way, here’s a chunk from a recap from just over a month ago….

    “Evan Ravenel and Sam Thompson made a quick appearance for Deshaun Thomas and Lenzelle Smith in the first half. Ravenel quickly made his presence felt on the court as he demonstrated great defensive skill while having to guard shifty Jordan Hulls on the perimeter. Ravenel gave him absolutely no window to drive or shoot, forcing him eventually use a screen to get clear. That screen left Hulls with Aaron Craft, his more natural defender. Ravenel was later forced to play the perimeter again, and did a great job of changing Indiana’s shot, resulting in an airball straight to Sullinger’s waiting arms. ”

    Still not positive enough…?

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