Ohio State placed four in double figures led by Evan Turner's 18 as Matta's crew ran away from Michigan State 82-70 this afternoon in Indianapolis.
Turner's second half explosion (18 pts, 6 reb, 2 asst) earned some MVP chants late while his teammates stepped up en masse. The biggest contributions came from Jon Diebler (17 pts, 5 reb), Wil Buford (14 pts, 9 reb) and B.J. Mullens (12 pts, 5 reb).
The collective effort at point guard was also serviceable, against POY Kalin Lucas no less, with P.J. Hill notching six points and four dimes and Jeremie Simmons chipping in eight points. The combined 14 points from "Hill-mons" fell short of Lucas' 17 but the juco duo dished out six assists compared to one for Lucas. Hmmm...
Surprisingly, Ohio State seized control early unleashing a 14-3 run over seven minutes turning a 12-9 deficit into a 23-15 cushion with 6:41 left in the first half. Diebler and Simmons sparked the run with five points each while the mostly zone defense held MSU to 1/10 during the stretch with five turnovers.
Sharty would trim the lead to a point twice late in the half but would get no closer than five the rest of the day thanks to hot shooting and tough defense out of Ohio State.
The Buckeyes simply dominated the action shooting 53% from the floor including 56% from deep (9/16) while the zone held Izzo's boys to 3/21 from long range (14%) and 38% overall. OSU also came up large at the stripe hitting 79% (23/29) yielding a 10 point differential from the line.
As usual, it was a tough day on the offensive boards as OSU surrendered 17 o-caroms against just five of their own but they made plays down the stretch and converted 11/14 free throws over the final five minutes to seal the deal.
For all the shots Matta's taken this year, the zone certainly paid off today and he once again has his team playing its best basketball when it matters most. OSU has now won four in a row and five of the last six, surely improving their seed along the way.
The Buckeyes await the Illinois/Purdue winner with tip off scheduled for 3:30 and Matta looking for his second conference tournament title in three years. Good stuff.