Thad Matta wasn't thrilled with what he witnessed but his Buckeyes emerged victorious in a 20 point victory over the winless (0-4) Lipscomb Bison tonight in the Schott.
Maybe it was a case of Madison Square Hangover but the bottom line is the 84-64 win wasn't as pretty as it looked on paper as the Buckeyes led by just 11 points with 5:34 remaining before closing the game with a 17-8 burst.
In a particularly sloppy first half, the Buckeyes converted just 1 of 6 free throws and turned it over 10 times, 5 by Evan Turner. Luckily for OSU, the triples were falling (7/11) and both David Lighty (8pts, 5 reb) and Jon Diebler (11 pts) picked up Turner's slack keying a late 12-4 run allowing OSU to take a 36-27 lead at the break.
Turner turned things around immediately in the second half triggering a 9-3 run with a steal and dunk, another steal leading to a Lighty putback and a nice dish to Lighty for three giving the Bucks a 45-30 lead. Lipscomb hung around and eventually cut the lead to seven at 54-47 but would get no closer before the Buckeyes finally put it away for good.
To his credit, Turner kept battling and tallied his second triple-double this season with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists against the outmanned Bison to go along with the 5 first half turnovers but as crazy as it sounds, I bet he'd be the first to admit this wasn't his best outing. Beyond the turnovers, he's still letting his emotions impact his play causing him to force the issue. Frustrated, he even threw a not-very-nasty elbow tonight that Bison pretty boy Josh Slater parlayed into a Hollywood audition. On the road in conference, some clown like Hightower is likely to T him up for such shenanigans.
What shouldn't be lost in Turner's trip-dub is the career high 22 points (9/14) and 7 boards turned in by Lighty. He continuously attacked the rim off the dribble which helped open up his jumper (3/3 3FG). It was nice to see him get back to his game after struggling against UNC before bouncing back against Cal.
Diebler had a big night from the perimeter with 17 points (5/11 3FG) while Jeremie Simmons added 11 thanks to a hot shooting night (3/3 FG, 3/4 FT) that also featured 3 assists against 0 turnovers in 18 minutes. Simmons has really played well thus far now that he's back to his natural 2 guard spot.
Down low, Dallas Lauderdale came up big against the small Bison front line finishing with 13 points (5/5 FG) and 6 boards. The only blemish on the "Twin Cities" night was his bricktacular 3/8 from the stripe. Feeling his struggles, the crowd practically gave him a standing ovation when he willed in his last two attempts giving OSU a commanding 71-57 lead.
With Dallas rocking the 3/8 and Lighty a 1/4 from the line, OSU shot just 7/17 (41%) on the uncontested 15 footers. Of course, the poor foul shooting didn't matter in this one as the Buckeyes shot 58% from the floor including 50% (11/22) from downtown. That said, you can mark it down that poor foul shooting will likely cost this team one or two close games based on what we've seen. I mean, coaches would be insane not to put Dallas on the line late in a game if he were to get the ball deep in the paint and Lighty's sophomore (62%) and shortened junior year (54%) don't exactly instill confidence. Matta will definitely want to keep the ball in the hands of Diebler, Wil Buford and Turner down the stretch of any nail biters.
Defensively, Matta ordered up man to man for most of the night and the Buckeyes held Lipscomb to 43% from the floor while forcing 18 turnovers. Lighty was particularly active with 3 steals with Dallas and Turner adding 3 swats apiece.
One other item to keep an eye on was the apparent benching of Buford. He started the game but played only 22 minutes as he again forced his shot a couple times on the way to a dismal 1/7 night with 2 points and 2 turnovers. Over his last 3 games, Buford is shooting a Ray Charles-esque 8/34 (24%) with many of those attempts coming early in the shot clock or otherwise inopportune times obviously drawing the ire of Matta. Worse, the misses are negatively effecting Buford's already suspect defensive game and I think Matta definitely used tonight to try and get his attention. It will be interesting to see how Buford reacts on Saturday at both ends of the floor.