Though I was convinced tonight would result in a loss, I didn't expect Ohio State to roll over and die but that's exactly what happened as Illinois handed the Buckeyes a 67-49 beatdown tonight in Champaign.
How bad was it? Consider:
- The Buckeyes actually had more turnovers (20) than field goals (19).
- The guards (Hill, Buford, Diebler, Simmons, Offut) combined for 9 field goals against 11 turnovers.
- Ohio State shot 46% from the stripe (7/15) thanks to the 2/9 masonry from B.J. Mullens.
- Jon Diebler officially reclaimed his "Ghost" status failing to score more than seven points for the fourth time in five games. The Ghost didn't score his first points until 28 minutes into the game proving once again he's virtually incapable of creating his own shot.
Even with all that bad news, the Buckeyes actually clawed to 38-30 early in the second half before Illinois center Mark Tisdale started abusing the Ohio State front line scoring seven points during an 11-4 run that increased the lead to 49-34 with 14 minutes to play.
Matta's squad showed little heart the rest of the way hitting only six field goals including zero by leading scorer Evan Turner.
After reaching double figures in 15 straight games, Turner had his worst night of the season finishing with a season low four points on 2/7 shooting with two turnovers. He did manage 10 boards but was effectively taken out of the game by Bruce Weber's defense.
I'm rarely critical of Matta but it appeared Weber had the upper hand all night.
Offensively, Weber's squad repeatedly attacked the Buckeye zone getting the ball to the elbows with those players either shooting short jumpers or forcing a back line defender to help leaving the low block unattended time after time.
I also found it curious that Matta seemed reluctant to play Lauderdale and Mullens together for extended minutes until the game was out of reach even though Turner was constantly being over powered on the block by Tisdale and 6'10" Mike Davis (4/6 FG, 6 boards).
Though it was only for three minutes, I'm also puzzled by the fact Matta would have both P.J. Hill and Kyle Madsen in the game at the same time. All sarcasm aside, if you are struggling to score, why would you ever put those two on the floor together?
Weber, as you can bet the rest of the conference will mimic, exploited Ohio State's lack of a decent point guard by turning up the ball pressure on Simmons and Hill as they tried to initiate the offense. The approach helped create six turnovers and even when those two weren't showing their low level juco skills the entry passes were so far from the hoop that the offense could never sustain a flow.
Reaching for bright spots as I wrap up, Wil Buford scored 13 points, albeit on 5/14 shooting but he continues to show he's not afraid to try and make something happen offensively which is more than I can say for at least one supposed scorer on the roster. Buford actually kept Ohio State from getting blown out in the first half scoring 11 of the team's 26 points.
Even with the rough night from the line, Mullens managed a team high 14 points (6/8 FG) and seven rips though his lack of toughness inside influenced a team high four turnovers.
I guess the good news is Thad has plenty of teaching moments and the fact is Illinois is a pretty good team. They play better than the sum of their parts, they're physical and always tough at home.
With Sparty coming in Sunday, it'll take a much more spirited effort than we witnessed tonight to keep from getting embarrassed. Something tells me the Buckeyes will bounce back with the proper effort but I doubt they can pull the upset.
A loss would drop OSU to 3-4 in conference but they have two very winnable games after that with Michigan coming the Schott followed by a roadie at Indiana. Hang in there. It's a tough conference this year and we'd be foolish not to expect peaks and valleys with such a young and depleted roster.