Ohio State arrived in Urbana-Champaign for their first conference road game of the year and walked into a literal buzz-saw, losing by a final of 74-55. The Fighting Illini simply out-hustled and out-fundamentaled the Buckeyes in all phases of the game today, proving what many have suspected for a while – this OSU team still has a lot of work to do. While Brandon Paul did not go off for 43 this year, he did lead his team with 19 points to which he added 8 rebounds. He was joined in double digits by Nnanna Egwu (16), Tracy Abrams (13), and Joseph Bertrand (12) for the Illini, while OSU saw DeShaun Thomas’s 24 points to lead all scorers, and Aaron Craft’s (11).
The Buckeyes pulled their usual tricks in the early going of the first half. They came into the game completely lacking in intensity and allowed Illinois to jump out to a quick lead and some hot shooting. The Buck’s defense slowly improved to keep the game from running out of control early, but the offense continued to struggle with turnovers and poor shooting. Illinois eventually took advantage of the poor OSU offensive effort and blitzed out to a double digit lead. That lead would only be relinquished briefly before the end of the half, but Illinois reseized it and stuffed the traditional late first stanza OSU run.
The domination by the Fighting Illini continued into the second half. Through the first 4 minutes, the Illini blitzed out on an 11-2 run to open up a lead that would eventually climb as high as 25 near the middle of the second stanza. Eventually the Buckeyes decided that enough was enough and began to chip away at the lead. Not surprisingly, solid defense helped lead to good offensive choices down the stretch. Of course, Illinois made smart adjustments, and one critical wide open three, to kill the Buckeye’s promising run.
It was a matter of time before this team had a game like this. Sure they played well against Duke and Kansas at times, but they were eventually going to have an all-around terrible game against a solid team. For the better part of 30 minutes, Illinois did just about everything right, Ohio State did everything wrong, and the luck was clearly on the Orange side of the court. While the Buckeye’s short little energetic burst was a nice thing to see at the end of the game, it was far too little and much much too late to matter.
1. Learning lessons. This game is chock full of lessons to be learned by this team. Don’t panic. Pass the ball. Find the open shot. Don’t jack up panicked shots. Be smart with the basketball. Control the tempo. Play your game, don’t let the other team play theirs. Play solid defense from the start. The list goes on.
1. Interior defense. It’s not often the Buckeyes are so poor on their interior defense, but thats what we saw today. Ally-oops, dribble drives, and all kinds of short and mid-range jumpers that the Bucks simply couldn’t limit. Honestly, the whole defense was in shambles in the first half, but I always complain about the perimeter defense, so I figured a change of pace was in order.
2. Shooting. Yikes, the shooting effort for the Buckeyes was terrible today. The shooting decision making was terrible, and the shots themselves were simply too strong for the most part.
3. Turnovers. This team has been averaging just over 10 turnovers per game. We had 11 in the first half alone, and gave up 16 points of those turnovers. Compare that to the 4 points off 6 turnovers the Buckeyes got going the other way.
4. Rebounding. Illinois was a team that gave up a 23 rebound margin to Missouri a few weeks ago. Today, the Buckeyes failed to box-out the Illini, and failed to out hustle the Illini on the boards. The Buckeyes ultimately gave up a -10 rebound margin through the game to the #11 rebounding team in the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes will next play the Purdue Boilermakers in Mackey Arena, West Lafayette on Tuesday, January 8th. You’ll be able to see that game on ESPN at 9:00 PM Eastern Time.