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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