First Thoughts From a 74-70 Loss at Indiana
By Tony Gerdeman
I can't tell you how long I've been looking forward to watching this event. My only concern was that with Ohio State being ranked second in the nation, and the Hoosiers being ranked 15th, that it would take away from the real reason we were all watching this game—the officials!
When you get a chance to watch Terry Wymer, Scott Thornley and Mike Sanzere tweet the pea, you have to set aside your New Years Eve frivolity and just bask in the striped glow of knowing showmanship.
They certainly didn't let us down. No matter how many times the players on the court tried to make it about themselves, Wymer or Sanzere would make it known that this sideshow would not overshadow the real reason Assembly Hall was sold out.
Even when the Buckeyes and Hoosiers tried to one up these great men by not fouling, they knew better. They weren't falling for anything. That's how you know they are truly great referees. Lesser refs would have fallen for the players' ruse of playing foul-free basketball, but not these guys.
It was an honor to have diminished the space on my DVR for this game. I doubt that it will leave "My Recordings" any time soon.
That first half was one of the great officiating performances in basketball history. It's no wonder they slowed down in the second half—they were exhausted from the amazing pace of the first half. If they would have tried to keep that pace up for an entire game, I'm not sure any of three would have left the game on their own terms.
But I'm okay with only seeing one half of officiating like that. We should be appreciative of the gift that we were given, not wondering why the gift wasn't twice as great.
I just wish those basketball players wouldn't have kept getting in the way.
First Thought - I hate watching games at Assembly Hall. I have since the day I learned what hate was. Once I realized what it was, my next thought was, "I shall apply this emotion to games at Indiana."
Referees were always intimidated by Bob Knight, and so the Hoosiers would always get more calls than they deserved back in the day. It takes quite a bit away from the game when you know that there is very little "straight up" about the game that you are watching, and I think there is still some carry over to the present day in that regard.
I don't know if the officials are worried that the ghost of Bob Knight is going to float down out of the rafters and choke them out, but it can be amazing at times.
Then, in order to not appear intimidated, the officials makes calls going the other way as well, thus making a two-hour game last at least twenty minutes longer than normal.
But let's be clear, Ohio State lost this game because of their decisions, not because of whistles. The calls were constant both ways and the Buckeyes could have easily overcome them had they played smarter at the end of the first and second halves, but they didn't, and they lost.
There's just something about Assembly Hall, however, that takes the joy out of the activity of watching any basketball game.
This was a great second half, but the first half was unwatchable.
Closing Thought - It was strange watching veterans play panicked basketball at the end of both halves tonight, specifically Aaron Craft. He was picked clean like an oven-baked turkey to close out the first half, and then had more issues late in the second half as well.
Those mistakes were compounded by a quick, and poor, three-point attempt for the win by William Buford, but don't put this loss all on Buford. He missed most of the game in foul trouble and was simply trying to win a game.
There were so many empty possessions in this game that had nothing to do with Buford that will be forgotten simply because fans will want to pile on the team's only senior.
Though all of this probably could have been avoided had he not turned it over when he was forcing a quick shot with a 70-69 lead with 1:24 to play in the game.
No, he didn't play well, but he only had two of his team's 17 turnovers and only had four of their 25 missed shots. This was a team loss and the team will move on. Fans should as well.
Glass Half Full Thought - This wasn't a bad performance for a team that couldn't get any of Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas or Buford on the court for 30 minutes tonight.
Even in losses—which really mean nothing for this team—it's fun to watch the young players getting important minutes in real games, and producing.
Sam Thompson's alley oop on the inbounds pass from Aaron Craft is going to be an all-time highlight for Ohio State, but it also shows that he's up to the challenge of big moments in big games.
The same could be said of Amir Williams. He played well tonight and has had a good week or two of late. I think this past week of basketball has finally convinced me that Thad Matta isn't going to rely on just seven players this season, and for that reason alone it's hard for me to see too much negative in an early-season loss like this.
Erasing Thought - It's been a while since the Buckeyes have had to play basketball without a shot blocker, and it certainly was a factor in their loss tonight.
Not only is there no secondary defender to clean up messes, but there aren't many good defensive matchups one-on-one for the Buckeye post players—especially when foul trouble is only a whistle away.
There's really very little that can be done about it this season, it's just something that will be a part of this team. There are ways to overcome it, and it generally involves outscoring opponents and getting the other team's big guys in foul trouble—both of which this team can do, but just didn't do well enough tonight.
Final Thought - I am guessing that this will be the worst game that we see Aaron Craft play this season. I'm also guessing that his New Year's Eve might be spent in a basketball gym.
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