First Thoughts From an 80-63 Win Over Indiana
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Some labeled this win over the Hoosiers a "revenge game", but I would label it more of a reckoning game.
This was Indiana's reckoning. They are not the seventh-ranked team in the nation. They are a good team, but they aren't where Ohio State is.
The Buckeyes controlled everything in this game except for the opening tip. Even with the Hoosiers shooting 55% from the field in the second half they only cut Ohio State's 21-point halftime lead by four.
The Buckeyes were toying with Indiana in this game. The Hoosiers were a top to be spun, and Ohio State spun them ragged.
Indiana should be commended for never quitting, but it has to be a little discouraging to shoot so well in the second half and make up almost no ground.
The Buckeyes kept Indiana at arm's length with one hand, and paintbrushed them with slaps with the other.
They were told where they belonged in relation to the Buckeyes, and it's doubtful that they liked what Ohio State had to say.
First Thought - Earlier in the week Lenzelle Smith Jr.'s bout with strep throat had him relying on the comfort of chicken noodle soup to nurse him back to health.
If this is what chicken noodle soup is capable of, grocery stores are about to jack the prices up something fierce.
Smith led the team with 28 points on 10-12 shooting, and he did it by attacking Indiana's defense from the get go.
We have seen that at times from Smith this year, but not as sustained as it was in this game. For instance, while he has had moments in each of the last three games, he had only scored 14 points combined in those three games.
This was a concerted effort to make Indiana pay for leaving him alone, and it worked.
When the fifth option on your team scores 28 points and hits 4-5 three-pointers, you're never going to lose if the talent level is comparable.
The larger question then becomes whether or not Smith can prolong this. Obviously he doesn't need to score 28 points, or even 20 points, every night, but it's nice to know that he's capable of it if necessary.
Jared Sullinger scored two first-half points and William Buford's shot never quite showed up, despite starting the game 2-2 from the field. What Smith did in this game was needed. Ohio State likely would have won regardless, but it sure wouldn't have been as easy without Smith.
Interestingly, Smith has been pointed at as a David Lighty type of basketball player this season. He does the little things here and there, and adds scoring at times. It's a fitting description on several levels. But this was probably the first time that Smith has ever elicited comparisons to Jon Diebler, and they were certainly fitting as well.
Proven Thought - The Ohio State defense on Indiana in the first half was brutish. It was the type of thing you see on a driveway between a father and a son. Well, a vindictive father and a son.
The Hoosiers were 6-22 from the field in the first half and went nearly nine minutes without a single point.
The second half was quite different. Indiana scored 49 points and shot very well from the field, but clearly Ohio State proved their point.
Continuing that defensive effort in front of innocent eyes would not have been healthy. No parent wants to have to shield their children's eyes from the horror that could have taken place if Ohio State had wanted it to.
That all being said, what was the deal with that second-half defense? It was terrible.
That's the type of defense that gets you knocked out of the tournament before the second weekend begins.
Controlling Thought - Aaron Craft had seven assists and zero turnovers. He also played a part in keeping Jordan Hulls 1-6 from the three-point line.
He was dribbling through Indiana's defense like they were stationary cones, and then he would find the right guy at the right time.
It was good to see Craft back in control of the Ohio State offense the way it had been expected all season long.
Hopefully for him this is the start of getting back on track right as the Big Ten season picks up steam, because the Buckeyes will need it.
Bi-Polar Thought - Jared Sullinger scored two points in the first half, and was pretty quiet about it.
After badmouthing himself over his recent play, it was expected that he would start out early in this game and simply dominate anybody that got in his path. But it didn't turn out that way.
Then came the second half. He was aggressive, determined and unstoppable. He was also pretty vocal. He scored 14 points, but certainly could have added more had it been necessary.
It says a lot about this team that they can be up by 21 points at halftime against the Hoosiers while only getting two points from Sullinger.
Perhaps the best thing about Sullinger is that when he is quiet like he was in the first half, it's by choice. But in a close game, he will never choose to be quiet.
Of course, his teammates still need to get him the ball, however.
Final Thought - I love the one dribble pull-up jumper from the perimeter that Deshaun Thomas is working on.
The more scoring that he can do on his own makes him less reliant on everybody else to get him the ball in a position to score.
Though he will always get half of his points down in the paint scooping up teammates' misses and putting them back in the basket like an obsessive compulsive housekeeper who can't stand clutter.
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