Today was Evan Ravenel’s Senior Day at Ohio State, and while it may not have gone down exactly according to script the Bucks were able to give him a 68-55 win over the Illini as a going away gift. The game as a whole was a sluggish mess for both teams, but the Scarlet and Gray were able to find more consistency more frequently to help secure a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. Ohio State was lead in scoring by DeShaun Thomas’ 19, Aaron Craft’s 14, and Lenzelle Smith’s 10. Illinois’ Brandon Paul lead the game with 21 and was joined in double digits by DJ Richardson’s 10.
Considering the result of the game 2 months ago, it was fair to assume that the Buckeyes would come into this game and play with extreme prejudice. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, they instead began with what looked like empty gas tanks. There seemed to be no passion whatsoever, and the Bucks struggled to do much more than simply hang with the Illini. It seemed that OSU was one good run away from putting the game away early, and that run finally started to take shape around the last TV timeout of the half. Some beautiful play, including a behind-the-back save from Shannon Scott to trigger a fast-break, led by a stiffening defense gave the Bucks a nine point lead at the half.
The run did not survive the break in play. Both teams again seemed to sink into a slump coming out of the half. The Buckeyes couldn’t seem to increase their advantage, partially due to poor decision making, and the Illini couldn’t bring it any closer. It was the 30 minute mark of the game before anything started to change. Illinois finally began attacking the interior and the OSU defense yielded easily under the onslaught. Unfortunately for the Illini, they weren’t able to capitalize fast enough on the strategy change before Matta and company were able to make the appropriate defensive adjustments to put a stop to it.
This wasn’t exactly the kind of game I was hoping for from the Bucks today. After getting killed two months ago, I was hoping for a summary execution of the Illini. However, the Buckeyes did continue their late season winning streak into the Big Ten Tournament, which is huge for both tournament seeding and for confidence in the tournaments themselves. Hopefully this team prepares well over the next few days going into postseason play.
1. Defense. It took a little while to really get it settled down and focused, but once it was the Illini could not find much success on the offensive end. They scored only 24 points in the first half, a very low scoring output for the Illini this year, and allowed the Buckeyes to go on a 12-2 scoring blitz over the final 6 minutes of the first stanza.
2. 23-7. That’s a great record for the level of difficulty the Bucks have faced this year. Consider that OSU’s losses are Duke, Kansas, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Illinois. That’s basically a who’s-who of college basketball this year (with one notable exception).
1. The crowd was absolutely dead to start the game. No enthusiasm whatsoever. When Dan Dakich comments that this is the most dead he’s heard a Big Ten crowd be all year long, that’s pathetic. The team also seemed to lack energy, but I have no idea if the crowd was feeding off the team, or vice versa.
2. Layups. This has been the most exciting adventure all year long. For some reason this team gets a bunny shot and is more likely to completely whiff it than to lay it into the net. Have they not been practicing their layups? Do they panic or get excited?
3. Officials not following the shooter to the floor. I’m absolutely sick and tired of the refs failing to call fouls that occur after the ball is released. If a player releases a shot and a defender makes contact with him before he’s on the floor, that is a shooting foul. Period. Lenzelle should have kept his mouth shut, but he was absolutely right to be angry about that no call. This is probably the most serious problem in officiating today, and I want to see it gone. Now.
The Buckeyes will next play in the Big Ten tournament, most likely on Friday, March 15th with the Bucks earning a first round bye. Keeping following the BBC for further information as it becomes available.