Buckeye fans had seen signs of an eruption brewing. The nine points and four rebounds in an impressive first half last Saturday in addition to the strong outings against top flight competition in Notre Dame (11 pts, 7 reb) and Miami (9 reb) served as writing on the wall.
Sure, it was against undersized UNC-Asheville but tonight might have been the coming out party for B.J. Mullens. The big man from Canal Winchester was simply dominating recording career highs with 19 points and three blocks along with eight rebounds (5 offensive) as Ohio State blew past the Bulldogs 83-59 tonight in the Schott.
The big night from Mullens included six dunks contributing to a healthy 8/11 from the floor. He impressed with his ability to get out in transition and did his part defensively with the blocked shots and I continue to salivate over Thad using him to pressure the inbounder.
That strategy paid off once again as Mullens created a turnover off the inbounds as soon as he checked in then threw down an alley oop from Jon Diebler on the following OSU possession. After an Evan Turner layup, Mullens was back at it scoring the next six Buckeye points including back to back dunks before converting a sick left handed putback tip extending the Buckeye lead to 25-12 with 8:50 left in the half.
The euphoria from the Mullens flurry was somewhat tempered as Turner picked up his second foul less than a minute later allowing Buckeye fans the opportunity to watch the offense once again go into the dumper. With Turner on the pine, the Bulldogs would play OSU to a 12-12 standoff bringing the halftime score to 37-24.
Even with the minor blip without Turner, the second half was more of the same as Ohio State turned the game into a rout with a 13-5 run swelling the lead to 50-29 with 15:41 to play.
Though Mullens was the big story, the Buckeyes did unleash a balanced attack placing four in double figures.
Turner put together another outstanding floor game with 17 points (7/12), four assists, three boards and three steals against just one, that's right, one turnover in 27 minutes. Even with his usual stat stuffing performance, he's got to understand his importance to the team and avoid silly fouls. Don't get me wrong, he's still logging heavy minutes but you can bet Big Ten teams will more effectively target him when on the floor playing with two fouls in the first half or three fouls early in the second.
Joining Turner and Mullens in double figures were Wil Buford and Dallas Lauderdale.
My man crush on Buford grows by the game as he's quickly validating all the hype I've been throwing his way. I still say he's on pace to supplant Diebler as the second consistent scoring option and he's proving he can crash the glass. He brought down seven boards tonight, after notching five against Iona, and added 16 points (6/14) and two blocks. He's a born scorer so he's not afraid to pull the trigger but more often than not he does it in the flow of the offense and he's not one dimensional in how he tries to score. The pressure he puts on a defense will only help less aggressive/capable scorers like Diebler get open shots.
Speaking of Diebler, while he struggled to get his shot leading to just three points (1/5 FG, 1/4 3FG) after scoring 16 and 14 in the previous two games, he did contribute a season high six boards along with three assists.
Down low, Lauderdale tallied 11 and seven thanks to a 5/6 night from the floor. He and Mullens also played significant minutes together helping OSU to a 41-30 edge on the glass.
Considering the production from Lauderdale and Mullens, it will be interesting to see if Matta leaves Kyle Madsen in the starting lineup against West Virginia. Matta's post game comments clearly indicated he didn't feel he was getting max effort from Dallas or B.J. leading up to tonight and he reiterated he's comfortable starting Madsen because he maxes out against his capabilities.
I'm all for the rah-rah reward stuff but I'm wondering if Thad's underlying strategy is that he knows he needs to at least get 10-12 minutes from Madsen on most conference game nights and he might be able to more easily disguise Madsen with four other regular starters and no concern for Turner being in foul trouble at the beginning of the game. If OSU gets to the first TV timeout without having to use Mullens or Lauderdale and the score is assuredly close then he's effectively shortened the game while increasing the chances both his bigs will be available down the stretch. Am I over thinking?
Either way, I was very pleased with tonight's effort. Hopefully the Buckeyes will keep focus over the holiday before welcoming Chuggy-Bear's Mountaineers this Saturday.
- For the game, the Buckeyes shot 52% from the floor while holding the Bulldogs to 35%.
- Crater took his first collegiate two-point shot, a sweet breakaway jam, four minutes into the second half of his ninth game!
- Titus blew his shot at a Trillion with a steal though he might give him self credit for two bone crushing screens.