Poor Late Game Execution Dooms Buckeyes

By Chris Lauderback on December 31, 2011 at 8:18p
AP Photo: Daron CummingsFailing to find Sully late was key to the loss

At one point, I was almost certain the story of today's 74-70 loss to Indiana in Assembly Hall would be three clowns in stripes named Mike Sanzere, Terry Wymer and Scott Thornley that called 42 total fouls including 29 in the first 24 minutes.

Instead, the main theme was Ohio State's lack of execution in the closing minutes, most notably from William Buford and Aaron Craft. 

Leading 70-69 after a foul plagued Deshaun Thomas drilled a jumper from the foul line with 1:53 to play, Craft, Buford and Sam Thompson killed any chances of staving off the upstart Hoosiers. 

Jared Sullinger deflected a Christian Watford shot after Thomas gave OSU the lead but Buford turned the ball over on the ensuing possession as he lost the ball of his left knee while driving down the lane. 

Sullinger was again there to pick up the slack rebounding a Verdell Jones miss but Craft inexplicably wildly drove the left side before attempting a kickout to Thompson that Jones stole and fed Victor Oladipo for a breakaway layup and a 71-70 Hoosier lead with :36 left in regulation. 

Upon calling timeout to set up a play for Sullinger, Ohio State completely botched the possession. First, Buford picked up his dribble forcing a ragged sequence in which Craft retrieved the ball but erratically veered on the right wing before uncorking a bounce pass too high and too hot for Thompson under the bucket. The ball eventually found it's way out of bounds giving IU possession with :15 remaining. 

Forced to foul, the Buckeyes put Jordan Hulls on the stripe and hit one of two giving Indiana a 72-70 lead with :13 left. 

The plan, AGAIN, should've been to pound the ball inside to Sullinger. Instead, Buford launched an NBA range triple try from the right wing that missed everything. At least I think it did. I was busy slamming my notebook to the ground. It wasn't so bad that Buford wanted to take a big shot or even that he took a three but the shot was rushed and well defended making it entirely unjustifiable in the eyes of virtually anyone of sound mind. 

Again forced to foul, Thomas chose Watford. He hit both. Game over. 

The Indiana victory stopped a six game losing streak to the Buckeyes and helped IU become just the 8th team since '96 to beat #1 and #2 in the same season. 

Craft led Ohio State with 16 points (6/10) to go along with five boards and four assists but his six turnovers were absolute daggers. 

Sullinger added 15 points and nine boards with 10 off the points and seven of the rips coming in the 2nd half thanks to just nine minutes of PT in the first half. 

Lenzelle Smith was the only other Buckeye in double figures with a season high 12 points. The kid played a heady game shooting 4/8 from the field including two big threes while adding six boards, three assists and steal against only one turnover. He was big in the first half with six points and four boards as Sully and Thomas played just 14 minutes combined. 

This one had all the makings of a giant turd early as the refs sucked the flow right out of the building. Ohio State actually built a 19-9 lead with 11 minutes left in the half but Sully was sent to the pine with his 2nd foul on a poor charging call. 

Indiana responded with a 24-13 run to close the half as OSU went roughly seven minutes without a field goal, virtually all of it without Sully and Thomas and most of it without Buford. Reserve Amir Williams held his own with four points and two boards in Sully's absence to help Craft who had seven points in the fractured opening 20 minutes. 

In a bit of foreshadowing, Craft was awful late in the half. Despite all the foul trouble, Matta's troops actually led 32-27 after a bucket from Evan Ravenel at the 1:19 mark but after a Cody Zeller hoop trimmed the lead to 32-29, Craft turned it over twice in a row, both leading to breakaway buckets for Indiana handing the Hoosiers a 33-32 lead at the half. 

The zebras whistled 22 fouls in the opening 20 minutes and both teams shot 8/10 from the stripe. Ten turnovers and 0/6 from distance didn't help Ohio State's first half cause. 

Unwavering in their commitment to being the focus of the game, the refs picked up right where they left off after intermission. Don't get me wrong, they were probably equally bad and Ohio State didn't deserve to win anyway but after OSU took a 38-37 lead on a jump hook from Thomas, he picked up his 3rd foul two possessions later on a ticky tack call. If that wasn't bad enough, Buford then picked up his 3rd and 4th fouls :30 apart meaning that with a span of 1:03 Thomas got his 3rd and Buford got his 3rd and 4th. 

Ohio State hung in getting big buckets from Thompson including a sick dunk off an inbounds lob, some crucial treys from Smith and even a triple from Craft to supplement Sully's 2nd half but it was all for naught thanks to the late game lapses from Buford and Craft. 

Indiana put five in double figures led by 17 from Hulls. Oladipo was also large with 15 points and six boards. He's a player. Big time. 

Thomas was limited to 21 minutes and five points. 

For the game, Ohio State shot a respectable 49% from the floor but only 27% from distance (3/11) and 73% from the line including only 11/16 in the 2nd half. Indiana shot 46% and turned 18 Buckeye turnovers into 16 points. 

The combined 42 fouls led to 48 combined free throw attempts. Welcome to the B1G season, everyone.

Next up for Ohio State, a Tuesday night tilt with a Nebraska team that best be prepared for what will be a highly pissed off bunch of Buckeyes. The 6:30pm tip can be seen on the BTN. 


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argyle182021's picture

Not an entertaining basketball game.  Play was stopped so frequently for fouls that the result was choppy and ugly.  Although Craft scored a bunch I think that may have been one of his worst games.  He had his pocket picked a couple of times at half court and he didn't do as good of a job controlling the action as he usually does.  Being hosed out of at least one timeout b/c of a bad call that should've been a shot clock violation left us with only one in the entire second half.  I wish I could have those two hours back.

Oh, and Sam Thompson can jump.


LadyBuck's picture

Totally agree with all of this. The reffing just stole any chance we had to actually have a game flow, and it didn't help that those were on our best players. The first 15 minutes killed our chances.

LadyBuck's picture

It was just a terrible night overall. Watching the game wasn't enjoyable, since the refs interjected every trip down the court, and we could not get anything going.

While I've never been a huge fan of Buford's, his defensive play, especially late in the 2nd half, was understandable as he had 4 fouls and didn't want to risk fouling out. On the other hand, the play by Craft was horrible. I guess we expect a lot out of him, especially after last year, but those two back to back turn overs very late in the game truly were daggers. From what we know of him, he'll probably be beating himself up more than we ever could. That doesn't make it any better.

The few positives I got from this game was:

  • We will rout Indiana outside of Assembly Hall. I truly believe their outing agaist MSU is the real Indiana. I will enjoy every second of watching their humiliation in C-bus. 
  • Positive side for Craft is that he shot better today than he has in a long time. Actually made his 3, and missed only 1 FT. Minimize the harmful turnovers (aka all of them), and this kind of game may never happen again.
  • Sam Thompson needs more minutes in the active rotation. It would be interesting to see a line-up of Craft, Thomas, Buford, Sully, and Thompson.
  • Likewise, I would like to see how a Sully-Amir line-up would work versus a Sully-Ravenel or Ravenel-Amir. Let's have fun with the post player combos. We have them, so play them!
  • Did I mention Thompson can jump like none other? Dunk on top of someone from behind? That was just sick.
gravey's picture

It's been this way for years.  Win or lose in Bloomington, it is the one place (other than maybe the Kohl Center) that everyone is complaining like hell about the officiating.  It's justified.  I used to think it was Bobby Knight that simply bullied the refs into calling it IU's way, but song remains the same...even when IU sucks, the refs are even worse there.  In a close game...it matters.  This game shouldn't have been close.

Joe Beale's picture

Haha...does the name Jim Bain ring a bell?  Coach Knight had Bain in his back pocket for several years.

thatlillefty's picture

only saw the final ~35 seconds of the game so i can't offer much insight. But my lord, what was Bufford thinking with that 3 at the end, down just 2 points with time on the clock???

Rather_Be_Golfing's picture

I couldn't agree more about the officiating.

My other caveat is I am one of the biggest OSU fans there is and what I am about to say hurts.


But in big games, time after time, it is up to your coach to make adjustments, substitutions, and call some sets, etc. and Coach Matta just doesn't do it.  Time after time.  The last possesion, a simple back side pick, to open up Sully would have gotten him the touch.  At minimum he would get fouled.  No less.  To leave him alone to get open is flat out wrong.

Mis-use of timeouts hurt.  And to never switch to a zone (not once) is not acceptable.  The way the game was officiated and the way IU spread us out, to allow the drive bys and not go zone is (again) unacceptable.  The middle was wide open since we had no interior defense.    Call it want you want, we didn't want to touch them, but how many wide open layups, dunks???  Just uncontested points.

Again, I huge Matta fan and the days of OB are over and OSU can and should recruit the best players.  But you have to "Coach" them even a little bit in big games.  We ran into a little adversity, and didn't respond.  That is up to coach.  Sorry, but true.

I feel like this watching a younger version of Coach Tark, who finally did win 1 at UNLV with pure talent.  Because we all know, he didn't coach on game day (just sucked on his towel).

This is the hardest post I have ever written as I usually stand behind the coaches of My University, but tonight was enough.  We are 10 points better than IU even with the worst officiated game I have ever seen.  

Wrong people, making wrong decisions, at critical points in the game.  Coaches need to put their players in position to execute.  We ran 1 set play the final 6 minutes of the game.  1 set play.  And the final shot was a set play.  Again, Coach put us in that position that Buford missed on.  Sully was wide open on the roll, btw.  Plenty of time.  In this case, not Buford's fault.

I feel bad for the team.  The good news is this is basketball, and one game doesn't matter.  What matters is we will be playing tougher opponents come March and we need to match X's and O's at some point.

As always, Go Bucks.



faux_maestro's picture

Oi vey

Your mom told me she wants a Dicken Cidar.

baddogmaine's picture

The timeout situation was not entirely of Motta's making. Players having to call TOs because they lost the ball and were going to get tied up. Players unable to inbound the ball. Normally one or two TOs a game are used to preserve possession - we used far too many. At the end Motta didn't have TOs to manage the game. He called the last one with about 35 second left but that was probably the right call. Settle the team, set a play, remind the vets how games are won. Not his fault that Buford picked up his dribble at the top of the key; that Buford tried to drive the length of the floor instead of letting Craft control tempo. You could be right about our lack of defense being Matta's call, but I don't think he had a lot of options at the end for game management.

Normal Buck's picture

He has certainly not demonstrated that his in-game handling of X's and O's is on par with his recruiting acumen.

slippy's picture

I don't think it's that hard.  You can still support your team/players/coaches but also be critical of them.


Matta is a great recruiter.  He's generally a good strategizer.  But when his strategy doesn't work or he's thrown off - you're right - he has trouble adjusting.  The first time I realized it was the Tennessee game in the tourney a few years back.  They consistently picked apart the zone and we changed nothing defensively.


Now, on the other hand, maybe we only notice it when the games go bad.  I feel like I know basketball very well so maybe I'll start paying more attention to the games we're ahead to see if anything changes.

khdenn's picture

I get your frustration with Coach, but if this is his career shortcoming I will gladly deal with it, and choose this over the alternative.  Bottom line is this:

- Games are won most of the time by having better players. 

-Matta's strength is convinving better players play for Ohio State. 

-Ohio State will win most of the time while he is the coach. 

I am not ready to trade him in (and his great recruiting) for the alternative that would be comparable to a Kirk Ferentz in Iowa - a great game day coach, but lacks the ability to land top talent. 

I'll choose the "hoping" that the better players will eventually end up on top, while enjoying the consistent 25-30 win seasons and B1G Championship opportunities year in and year out.

TLB's picture

I sometimes wonder about Matta's coaching too..........then I remember that we had a Kirk Freentz type before Matta and I hated that mediocrity.

Rather_Be_Golfing's picture

Well good.  I am glad I am not too far off (my rocker).  


No, I don't want to trade him either.  "In Thad I Trust."


I feel a lot better today.  We dropped to #7 in the polls, very deserving.  Let's see how the team responds.  Need Buford to act like a Senior in big games.  He doesn't need to try and do everything.  Bball is such a Team game and btw, he has Great Teamates, not average ones.


Thanks for all the posts back.  


Now let's get back and win the second half of thw Bowl Game.


Go Bucks.



Brutus's picture

Couldn't watch live so I recorded the game and just stopped watching with about 13 minutes to play. The officiating made the game unwatchable. Bad calls both ways every other possession made this more frustrating than watching all the Buckeye mistakes. I'm glad I didn't stick with the game because I'd spend the rest of the night pissy, not because of the loss, but just out of being very annoyed.

It was February before the Bucks lost this many games last year and thankfully, that means absolutely nothing. The bench got some valuable minutes and kept us in the game the entire night...on the road...against a good team...in a very tough venue. There will be other games where Sullinger or Buford or Thomas (but please never all three again) get into foul trouble, so better to see now how the team will respond and which lineups to use, rather than having to deal with it for the first time in March. And while we're still far from losing a #1 seed, I'd rather have a battle tested team with a good record and decent seed, than a stellar record and a #1 seed. The #1 seed got us jack shit last year.

And look on the bright side, we lost a close game to a good team on the road. What was Bo Ryan's excuse? It's a always a good day when the crotchety a-hole loses.

Anyway, Happy New Year to all, be safe, don't do stupid shit.

Buckeye Chuck's picture

I really thought they were going to pull it out, but there sure was some terrible basketball in the last 2 minutes. I hate to say it, but it's starting to look like this team might have peaked against Duke. They've clearly been a level below that performance since then.

It's also starting to look like the old Bob Knight era 8-vs.-5 atmosphere is back at Assembly Hall, which is bad news for the rest of the Big Ten. The officiating in the first half was an absolute disgrace, the worst I've seen in years. I trust payback will be brutal and unmistakable.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

Crean actually shake Matta's hand and share a verb/noun or two? Even though Thad steals all his in-state talent?

WC Buckeye's picture

Someone needs to monitor these refs' bank accounts. Sully and Thomas take the pine with 2 fouls early in the first half, Buford gets hacked while shooting (right in FRONT of one of these dipshits) = we only get the ball out of bounds, and the lead mysteriously evaporates. If I didn't know better....

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

WC Buckeye's picture

Oh, and they played like a bunch of freshmen and sophomores when the game was still winnable....

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

BuckeyeEd's picture

It's actually a good thing to lose a few early, We need to peak in March...Not January like last year. We will be a force come Tourney Time. Get the New guys more time and let's build some depth. Go Bucks!!....I Hope we smash the Gayturds.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Craft and Buford's poor decision making in the game were more surprising than the horrible officiating.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

YTOWNBUCKI's picture

Agreed. Craft's turnovers in the last minute and that ill-advised three by Buford are what lost the game. Always tough to win in the B1G, especially on the road.

CJDPHoS Board of Directors

Go get your shine box, Gumar!

baddogmaine's picture

The refereeing was bad, but the refs were hurting both teams. Zeller was DQed. I agree with Chris' assessment of our play at the end. I'm seeing Buford added to "best of" lists and don't understand why. He is not shooting consistently well this year, and in close big games he tends to try to win the game himself, unsuccessfully. What surprised me was Craft's panic.

For the most part I was pleased with the play of the bench. We lost a 10 point lead in the first half but to go into the locker room down just one offered promoise for when Sully and Thomas went back in. Instead, the guys with experience failed to adjust to the way the game was being called. Can't blame the bench for the result.

What this means going forward is a complete unknown. It confirms to me that Sullinger has to be on the floor AND we need to win the turnover battle to have a real chance. We can correct the turnovers, hopefully (though if Buford doesn't know how to play under control by now I don't know what the  prognosis is). But there will be games when Sully gets into foul trouble or otherwise has to sit. Can we overcome that? Not based on what we saw yesterday. On any given day . . . WIS lost to IA - who saw that coming? But based on recent play on the floor the B1G is no longer ours to lose - IN and MSU at least are very real threats, and PUR and WIS still need to be taken seriously.

I liked the color commentary by Dan Dakich. His remarks about Matta trying to figure out whether Thomas' potential offense outweighed his liability on defense (in the end it didn't). Criticizing Buford for acting as if he did not know that the lead was only two when he launched his ill-advised rainbow. I thought Dakich was the rare announcer who added to the game.

LouGroza's picture

Rewatched the game Sunday morning as hard as that was to try to comprehend the officiating. I have viewed some badly officiated games that I thought were the worst ever but....This game, not from the very start, but only after OSU went up by ten, became an absolute circus. Craft was mauled constantly. The calls on Sullinger, especially the charge without an opportunity to land once in the air, and the Buford foul while shooting in mid air called a non-shooting foul? There were so many instances that #4 for Indy was all over the back of an OSU rebounder throwing them completely off balance that were never called.

I can go on and on but here's the strangest. After starting the second half and a couple quick fouls called against Indy, Crean got in the one Refs ear by the bench bitching about the calls. The ref cupped his hands around his mouth and went to Creans ear and whispered something to him. Immediately following that same ref made three quick calls against OSU that were all very iffy. I become more leary of this type of stuff as there seems to be obvious calls made in football as well that impact the outcomes more and more. Hate to seem like a poor sport but when the announcers mention it as well as the studio people you know its bad. Anyone have an email address of the Big Ten offices?

TLB's picture

I can't wait to get them back here and again in the B1G tourney.

Never thought I'd say it but Hightower and Valentine would have been an upgrade from what was at that game.

Jack Fu's picture

Just like last year, this team is going to go as far as Buford's jumper takes us. In big games where things get tight, the Bucks' plan should be to pound it down low to Sully and let him either shoot or kick it out if the D collapses. Unfortunately, in those situations more often than not Buford decides "Eff it, this is MY team" and decides to launch a bunch of jumpers. When he's making them, we'll win. When he's not, like the Kentucky game last year, we'll lose. Simple as that.

BoFuquel's picture

A perfect ending for the worst year ever at TOSU. Willie Le'Brick strikes again. I for one don't see any improvment on the horizon.Can hardly wait for 12-21-2012.

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

Buckeyes just completely bafooned the end of that game.  The refs may have screwed up the first 39 minutes, but with 1 minute to go, it was 70-69 good guys.  All they did in the final minute - turnover, foul, then ending it with Buford taking a TERRIBLE shot.  He wasn't remotely open, and a 3 was not needed down 2.  That's a shot that gets made maybe 5% of the time at best. 

Here's hoping they learn from what happened last night and not bafoon a winnable game like that again.  We've got many more tough road games against good teams, not to mention the good teams that will be played come March.

Class of 2010.

Idaho Helga's picture

Horrible refs...I can hardly remember a worse game.  Not just one bad ticky-tack call but back-to-back-to-back.  It's not hard to figure out if you get the visitors in foul trouble early you are going to change the style they play in the 2nd 1/2.

And I'm sure Buford would like to have that last minute back.

Still early here, lets let them make their mistakes early.  Craft seemed to have an off game while he had been seeming to get better each game. 


Now, on to kick some Gator Butt in the Urban bowl....

tampa buckeye's picture

Two things...refs were just awful. Even the halftime guy said they were terrible. Buford made two bad plays at the end of the game. Indiana is a good basketball team but they wont keep it close in columbus. Go bucks.

bucknut24's picture

Indiana will be exposed every time they play away from home because they won't have the ref's in their back pocket to cheat the visiting team.  MSU proved that the other night.  This was the most bias officiating I have seen in a long time and there wasn't anything anyone could do about it.  I feel bad for the players because you could see how they played so tentatively in the second half because they new the ref's were going to call fouls on them.  Those ref's should be suspended for calling a game like that.  I was really surprised we even had a chance to win it at the end and wonder if this was the way the Kentucky game was called and that's why they lost.  There is no way in hell that Indiana is better team than Kentucky or OSU.

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

I thought the Kentucky game last year was very poorly officiated as well, and it mostly went against us.  This game seemed a lot like that one.

Class of 2010.

zbd's picture

Buford has the lowest basketball IQ of anyone on the team.  Physically talented but no clue when making decisions. No senior leadership on the team.

Buckeye06's picture

Is the world really ending after losing a regular season game to a top 15 team on the road?  The team couldn't get into a groove at all because of the foul calls (yes it happened to both teams) and that game is a 10 point win at a neutral court at the least.  Buford is learning to be a senior too, and this team is still young.  We're not even halfway through the seasonand have a top 5 team...everyone chill.  If this is still happening in 2 months then flip out...like i will be

Brutus's picture

This is an Ohio State site and these are Ohio State fans, so yes, the world is ending.

LadyBuck's picture

The double edged sword of being a buckeye fan. We expect wins, which we get most of the time, and when we lose, the world is falling. Just another day as a buckeye fan.

Buckeye Black's picture

I'm reserving all judgment until March.  In the meantime I'll be watching Sam Thompson dunks.

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

I don't want to be one of the whiny fans after a loss but are you f@#$ing kidding me?!?!?!  Those refs absolutely sucked bad last night.  I have never seen home cooking like I saw last night and it thoroughly changed the game into Indiana's favor. 

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

khdenn's picture

I hear you, and I hate being that way too after a tough loss.  But you said what has been on my mind the past 24 hours.

johnblairgobucks's picture

This year's basketball team is playing 3 new starters.  I like OSU's depth more than last year.  I'd rather have OSU figure out its rotation and depth chart, by the end of January.  Solidify roles by the end of February.  Hit full stride in March.

A 28-2 team that losses in the sweet 16, isn't what I'm after, as a fan.  Been there done that.

I'd rather OSU take some bumps, lessons and growth through the season, and be ready for the final 4.

thatlillefty's picture

100% agree... how many games did UConn lose in the regular season before going on that amazing March run? I like our depth a LOT. Let's give Matta a chance now to figure out what works best so we can tear it up in March when it really counts

Maestro's picture

9-9 in conference play last year for UCONN.

vacuuming sucks

thatlillefty's picture

where is my Gator Bowl preview?

Let's discuss tomorrow's game rather than dwell on this loss.

O - H !

Poison nuts's picture

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Poison nuts's picture

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Jack Fu's picture

I'm sorry, but this comment is meaningless in the face of a tough loss. Yeah, I'd rather this year's team be a little worse than last year but win the national title ... So what? You could substitute anything at all for the first clause of that sentence and the meaning would not change. "Yeah, we lost, but I'd rather lose now and win the national title." Well, no kidding. So would every other team in the universe. You assume that this year's team, by losing a close, tough game on the road, has a better chance at winning it all than last year's team did. There is no justification for that whatsoever. Last year's team lost a tough in-conference road game where many breaks went against them, and they still lost in March. Why does this loss, in your apparent estimation, make this year's team more likely to progress to the final four?

Jack Fu's picture

*this post is a reply to JOHNBLAIRGOBUCKS, above*

johnblairgobucks's picture

Well buddy, you seem to have it all worked out. 

BTW, I was trying to say that one loss wasn't the be-all end-all for this team.  They have plenty of work to do, and can take lessons from the defeat.   

Go Bucks!

Jack Fu's picture

I agree with you. If you had just said that from the beginning, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Poison nuts's picture

Sorry my tablet sucks

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Poison nuts's picture

Remain calm. Everything will be fine. I just looked at my crystal ball and found out that A. The world is not going to end (not over this) B. Indiana is a pretty damn good team C. Bloggers somehow always know how to win games after they have already taken place without having ever coached or played (usually) D. This is going to be a special season for The Ohio State Basketball Buckeyes!

My crystal ball is almost always never wrong.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

LadyBuck's picture

I agree with everything but point B. Indiana is not that impressive of a team. Nor did it take a genius to figure out how two adjust for them. At home, with that kind of officiating, they will win every time. Anywhere not named "Assembly Hall," well, look at what MSU did to them.

mastermiind's picture

one- that's one of the 5 toughest places to play in the country.

two- the officiating killed us. 

three- we just plain played badly.



they don't hang banners for games in december. 


Bucksfan's picture

HEY!  We have a bowl game in the morning....anyone forget?!