Ohio State came into the Big Ten Tournament looking to simply have fun, and they sure found it in a 71-50 drubbing of Nebraska. It didn’t look like it would go that way early, but excellent play to start the second half managed to put the game out of reach. DeShaun Thomas and Sam Thompson led all scorers with 19 points, while LaQuinton Ross saw double figures for only the fourth time in Big Ten play with 11. Nebraska had two players reach double digits with Brandon Ubel’s 16, and Shavon Shields’ 14.
As has appeared to be typical for them this year, the Bucks started the first 10 minutes struggling to find their game. It wasn’t until the mid-point of the first half that the Buckeye point guards began to find their scoring rhythm. Craft and Scott both scored 5 critical points a piece to give the Bucks a one point lead off a 10-0 run. Once they were able to claim the lead, they did not relinquish it again in the half. However, they also weren’t able to build much headway on it when Nebraska switched into a 2-3 zone. It was only in the last few seconds that an ill-advised Nebraska foul* put DeShaun Thomas on the line for three free throws that gave OSU a five point lead.
The Bucks came out of the gate in the second half firing on all cylinders. They completely shut down the Huskers for the opening four and a half minutes and blitzed out on an 11-0 run to start to put the game away. Before too long, the Buckeyes had opened a 24 point lead and began to play games with their lineup. That ended up helping the Huskers out, not surprisingly, as they were able to close the lead back to 16 before Matta brought the majority of his starters back into the game. That only lasted as long as it took to whittle the time down to the point where he felt comfortable enough to give Alex Rogers some time on the floor.
Despite the sloppy start, this kind of finish was exactly what the Buckeyes needed in the start of tournament play. Matta may want them to have a good time, but they still need to play quality Basketball – and there’s nothing stopping them from doing both. They demonstrated that with a vengence today.
1. Shannon Scott’s scoring. With the rest of the team struggling on offense, it was Shannon Scott that impressed early. He hit a couple critical baskets with the Bucks down nine to help close the gap to four as the Bucks worked on turning the defense on.
2. Defense – eventually. Once the Buckeyes turned on the energy, the defense looked much improved. They were able to hold Nebraska scoreless for nearly 6 minutes of the first half, and completely prevented them entry into the paint. That took away the vast majority of the tools the Huskers found success with in the early going.
3. LaQuinton Ross Heat Check. Actually, the entire beginning of the second half, but the three straight treys rained in by LQR were a thing of beauty straight out of NBA Jam. It was almost surprising the net didn’t catch fire. The shooting for the first 8 minutes was at a ludicrous 90+%. Unbelievable.
4. Early Floppy Haired Mayhem (FHM) sighting! It was a pleasant surprise to see Amedeo Della Valle enter the game with more than 10 minutes left to go. We like our Mayhem, and we like it best when it is Floppy Haired.
1. Lethargy and laxadaisical play. Not to single him out, but DeShaun Thomas got yanked from the game before the first TV timeout because he seemed not only unable but unwilling to play defense. The rest of the team seemed to feed off that negative energy, playing with no heart whatsoever through the first quarter of the game. It was, however, nice to see Matta tear into the team for their poor play so quickly.
2. The free throw adventures continue. Is there much more to say? There are few players on this team that don’t worry you when they step up to the line to shoot their charity shots. It’s awfully hard to make deep runs in tournament time if you struggle to make free throws.
The Buckeyes will next play tomorrow against the winner of Game 8 between Michigan State and Iowa. You’ll be able to see that game on CBS at 4:30 PM Eastern Time.