Coming in with huge back to back wins over ranked foes in their pocket, Ohio State looked sluggish throughout but had just enough to edge Butler 54-51 today in the Schott.
Maybe it was a combination of not playing for a week while taking final exams, a noon tip, and the high of being ranked for the first time this season.
Either way, it wasn't pretty but the Buckeyes still improved to 6-0 making plays when it mattered most including a strong defensive stand over the last 3:55 that saw OSU hold Butler scoreless after they had tied the game at 51 on Gordon Heyward's seventh three-pointer of the day. In fact, after Heyward's game tying triple, OSU forced him to miss his final three shots as Butler went 0/6 from the floor to finish the game.
Though the Buckeyes struggled at times to locate Heyward leading to his 25 point outburst on 8/15 from the floor (7/11 triples) they held his teammates to a paltry 7/32 (22%) and forced 19 turnovers.
Offensively, there were few bright spots especially in a second half that saw the refs slow the game to a crawl with continuous whistles. Those whistles allowed the Buckeyes to showcase their weakness at the stripe going just 16/28 (57%) including 1/5 from David Lighty.
Another downer offensively was the lack of player and ball movement leading to just 6 assists on 15 field goals (Butler assisted on 13 of their 15 FG's). Amazingly, the Buckeyes had just 3 assists over the final 35 minutes after Evan Turner assisted on 3 of OSU's first 4 buckets.
Jeremie Simmons continued his cold shooting (1/6, 1/5 threes) adding only two assists against a season high 3 turnovers. His backup, Anthony Crater, saw only 6 minutes of action - just enough time to launch another three - meaning he's still yet to attempt a two point shot in his college career. Seriously.
There were some positives, however, as Lighty shed his invisible cloak to score 10 points (4/7 FG) and grab 8 boards while Turner added 14 points, 5 boards, 4 steals and 3 assists to go along with his customary 3 turnovers. Diebler also hit a couple nice threes coming off screens to finish with 8 points (3/4 FG, 2/3 triples) though I still think he needs to look inside more. His season FGA tally now shows 75% of his shots are threes (36/48).
Down low, Swatterdale turned in another solid effort with 9 points, 8 boards and 4 blocks. One of those was his second blocked three pointer this season drawing a standing ovation from the Buckeye faithful. His counterpart on block, B.J. Mullens, added 6 points and a pair of rejections. I thought he showed some great footwork on the last possession of the first half flashing a nice spin move to his left giving OSU a 29-23 lead at intermission.
As J.B. noted in the open thread, a sloppy, sluggish win could be just what the doctor ordered for this team. It gives the coaches plenty of coaching opportunities and keeps this team grounded after the wins over Miami and Notre Dame.
Hopefully, Matta has the elixir for an offense that really struggles with Turner on the bench though I'm not sure what the fix might be unless he can get Simmons/Crater to create more easy looks via the drive and dish. A little more from Wil Buford would help, as well. The freshman got 13 minutes today with Turner in foul trouble but failed to score (0/3).
Registering exactly one field goal in the final 12 minutes isn't going to get it done on most nights though the silver lining is defense is usually a constant and this team flat out plays a mean matchup zone.
Next up: the Jacksonville Dolphins next Wednesday at 9pm EST.