Ohio State used a stifling zone to shut down a horrible Samford team holding the Bulldogs to 20% from the floor (9/48) including 2/18 from three point land in a 59-22 victory that saw OSU tie the school record for fewest points allowed (Wabash, 1939).
Evan Turner dominated the floor for Ohio State with 16 points and a career high 13 boards to go along with 4 assists and 5 steals.
Even with Turner going off, the best news for Buckeye fans came in the form of BJ Mullens being removed from the Missing Persons list. A non-factor in the first two games, Mullens saw 18 minutes of action producing 8 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals. Certainly not dazzling stats but Mullens looked a little more comfortable - playing instead of thinking - which will hopefully give him some confidence as the Buckeyes look toward Miami and Notre Dame next week.
Serving as the tuneup Matta expected, Ohio State held Samford scoreless for the first 7+ minutes though the offense was far from spectacular. One bright spot included a nifty transition pass from Crater to Swatterdale resulting in a conventional three point play and a 17-4 lead with 7 minutes left in the half. The lead would grow to 30-6 at intermission as OSU held Samford to 13% shooting (3/23) and forced 10 turnovers while building a 23-12 edge on the glass.
The second half became a snoozefest until Samford's Gaby Bermudez decided to get a little chippy. Frustrated with not being able to inbound the ball under the Bulldog basket thanks to Mullens' length, Bermudez chucked the ball directly at Mullens to save possession prompting a little chirping and a puzzled look from longtime ref Donnie Gray.
Shortly thereafter, Bermudez received a pass and went up strong for a layup and Mullens delivered a Big Ten style foul dropping Gaby to the floor. Teammate Jim Griffin countered with a little push to Mullens chest triggering OSU's Jeremie Simmons to push Griffin to the ground. Order was quickly restored but I was more than happy to see Mullens show a little grit though Simmons' retaliation was more stupid than it was sticking up for a teammate. The remaining 10 minutes were played without incident as OSU cruised to victory.
Swatterdale was again large in the paint posting 10 points, 8 boards and 3 blocks in 23 minutes and bench big Kyle Madsen added 6 rebounds in 12 minutes. Knowing Madsen is truly the third big on a team short on baseliners, it was good to see him get some minutes. The contest also marked the first time I can recall seeing Dallas and Mullens on the floor together. It will be interesting to see if Thad gambles, or is forced to play those two in tandem next week against bigger front lines.
Besides the good we saw from Turner, Dallas and Mullens, there was plenty of bad to be had.
First, David Lighty continued his mediocre to ineffective play scoring just 3 points (1/4) to go with 5 boards, 3 turnovers and 4 fouls. Is it time to maybe come to the conclusion he's just never gonna be much of an offensive player, but instead a solid defender who can get hot once every couple weeks and give you 8-10 points?
Second, Jon Diebler disciples fans won't want to read this, but he reverted back to his '07-'08 self standing around the perimeter helping bog down the offense. In four attempts, his shortest shot was from 20 feet (he banked it in) and he added exactly 0 rebounds and 0 assists to his 5 points but did manage 3 turnovers.
Diebs wasn't alone as the Buckeyes racked up 17 turnovers led by Turner's 4 miscues. We know Turner's all around game is tight but I've seen few gifted players like him struggle so bad leading the break. After a few bad TO's in transition against BG, he had another couple today and seems to truly struggle with knowing when to dish versus when to keep driving. It's like he's never gotten the memo that you don't give up the ball on the break until a defender picks you up forcing the pass. I love him but the TO's continue to kill me - 9 in the last 2 games against chumps like BG and Samford?! He's too damn good to be doing that.
Anthony Crater also had a rough day catching a bit of Diebler-itis taking three shots, all from beyond the arc. One was an airball, another a total brick. I absolutely love his defensive intensity but he needs to focus on setting up teammates unless he's inside 17 feet. I'm fine with the occasional three but OSU doesn't need him to take a high volume of triples. If they need triples from the PG slot, Matta would rather Simmons be the launcher.
All in all, it's another win for a young team still finding its way. I thought the overall effort was strong which is impressive when you consider the opponent, the crowd and what's on tap for next week. What do you guys think? Can Ohio State steal one from Miami to avoid going 0-2? Not that they can't beat Notre Dame, but I certainly don't think we should expect it. At least not this early.