Since celebrating moral victories seems to be en vogue for both the football and hoops squad's, I guess it's good news the Buckeyes didn't quit in addition to getting strong performances from B.J. Mullens and Wil Buford but they still didn't have enough to threaten Sparty in a 67-58 loss tonight in the Breslin Center.
Buford scored a team high 17 points on 7/13 shooting while Mullens put up 16 points (8/14 FG), six boards and two blocks in 22 minutes. Considering the stiff competition, it was easily Mullens' best performance of the season and it was much needed as Dallas Lauderdale laid another egg with two points, two rebounds, 3 blocks and two turnovers in 18 minutes of virtually invisible play.
Keeping with a recent theme, Ohio State allowed a big run to close the first half, this time a 21-7 stretch in which Sparty shot 5/6 from three point land while holding the Buckeyes to 2/10 shooting. The blitz turned a 17-14 Buckeye lead into a 35-24 halftime hole.
Preceding the run, OSU held Sparty scoreless for over four minutes forcing them into 4/15 from the floor before the defense once again lost track of perimeter shooters.
Though the offense sputtered shooting just 36% in the half, OSU did manage to assist on six of nine field goals compared to eight assists on 18 field goals for the entire Minnesota game. Baby steps, I guess.
Trailing 41-28 early in the second half, a 10-3 Buckeye run keyed by two triples and a dunk by Buford cut the deficit to eight at 44-36 but it was merely a teaser as the Buckeyes would get no closer than seven the rest of the way.
Evan Turner logged another 40 minutes and registered 14 points (5/11 FG), 10 rebounds and three steals after struggling with his shot (32.6%) in three previous games.
The Buckeyes get a chance to regroup with Houston Baptist coming to town Friday night before a home tilt with Indiana next Tuesday.
Hopefully, those two games will give Matta a chance to figure out what adjustments to make before back to back roadies against Michigan and Illinois.
One adjustment should be the insertion of Mullens into the starting lineup in place of Lauderdale. Though his blocks might be sexy, Dallas is incapable of adding anything offensively and Mullens needs more than the 19 minutes he's averaging over the last four games if he's going to develop at a rate fast enough to help this team keep their head above water.
Another adjustment could be the deployment of an occasional man to man defense. The continuous failings of the wings to pick up shooters resulted in another back breaking night from three point land as Michigan State went 8/17 (46%). In fact, Big Ten opponents are shooting 46% (30/65) from deep against the Buckeye zone through three games.
I'm really not sure what else Matta can do in an effort to jump start this team since kidnapping Mike Conley is probably against NCAA rules.
Oh, and I found it somewhat interesting Kecman didn't see the floor tonight. I think that probably tells you all you need to know about whether or not he'll be of much help considering he's been practicing all season.