Crushing a Bad Team Never Felt So Right

By Chris Lauderback on February 21, 2012 at 9:16p
AP: Jay LaPreteDT: Scored 42 pts on 14/20 FG against Illy this year

Fresh off a poor showing last Saturday in Ann Arbor that severely jeopardized their chances at a 3rd straight regular season conference crown, the Buckeyes took out their frustrations on a reeling Illinois squad 83-67 tonight in Value City Arena. 

Deshaun Thomas led the way with 19 points on 6/8 shooting with five boards and William Buford added 17 on a hard to believe 7/9 from the floor albeit with three turnovers. 

Aaron Craft turned up his offensive aggression during an early stretch and was the 3rd Buckeye in double figures with 11 points to go along with five boards and five dimes against three turnovers. 

The trio of Thomas, Buford and Craft combined to shoot a scorching 17/22 (77%) to offset a lackluster nine point, six rebound effort from Jared Sullinger who fouled out after helping give up 21 points to Illini big Meyers Leonard. 

Pissed from losing their cool in the home loss to Sparty followed by the tough to watch stinker at Michigan, Ohio State sensed a wounded opponent and went for the kill early jumping out to a 28-8 lead midway through the 1st half. 

The Buckeyes used crisp ball movement against a disinterested Illini squad to hit 11 of their first 12 shots while the defense forced the Illini to miss eight of their first 11 field goal tries with three turnovers. 

Craft was a beast scoring seven points on 3/3 shooting including a blow by down the lane, a triple from the right wing off a nice find by Buford and a driving pull up jumper resulting in an and-1 while Thomas added six points via a pick and pop trey working with Lenzelle Smith, a free throw and a silky smooth baseline jumper. 

Playing with a big lead, and with a handful of reserves, the Buckeyes played drowsy on and off for the remainder of the half giving up mini runs of 5, 5 and 8 in between an 8-0 run of their own. One stretch saw OSU turn it over three times in four possessions, the non-turnover trip resulting in an ill-advised triple try from Buford. Illinois was so bad they could only squeeze five points from the elongated sequence. 

During most of the spurts of inconsistency, Illinois slowed the Buckeye ball movement with a zone defense, something opponents continue to throw at Ohio State in recognition of the lack of consistent outside shooting. 

Despite the up and down final 10 minutes, the Buckeyes still led 42-26 at the half behind 71% shooting from both the floor (17/24) and beyond the arc (5/7). Thomas led the charge with 11 points with Craft adding eight while Buford and Smith chipped in seven apiece. Those four combined to shoot 13/16 in the opening 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Sully found nothing but slow going. He took just two shots in the half scoring three points with three boards and three turnovers while his defensive assignment, Meyers Leonard went for 14 points to keep Illinois within 16 at the break. 

The 2nd half was more of the same as the Buckeyes slowly increased the lead behind the hot shooting of Thomas and Buford. The duo scored Ohio State's first 13 points to build a 55-36 lead with 13:23 left in the regulation. 

Three possessions later, things got a little interesting as Sullinger was whistled for a flagrant-1 for delivering an elbow to Leonard's mandible on a spinning bully move from the right block. The bucket was good but after a summit at midcourt, the refs determined Sully led with the 'bow giving him three fouls with 12:13 remaining. Less than a minute later, Sully pushed off attempting to field a Craft lob giving him four fouls and a trip to the bench. 

The call for the elbow was questionable at best - and I only say at best because of the emphasis being placed on wussyfying the game I love. The pushoff was legit. 

With Illinois trying to keep from getting blown out down 17, the Buckeyes went on a 9-2 run fueled by a sick baseline reverse layup and-1 from WB and capped by a Sam Thompson block leading to an easy bucket in transition for Evan Ravenel to make it 66-42 with 7:24 to go.

Speaking of the bench, it logged 64 minutes, 22 of which came from Shannon Scott. Surprisingly, Scott logged a good bit of time alongside Craft. Not surprisingly, he missed all five of his shots with four assists and two turnovers. At times, his jumper looks as flat as Calista Flockhart though he had zero trouble penetrating the lane which is somewhat impressive when you consider teams give him five feet of space begging him to shoot jumpers. 

Thompson saw 11 minutes and was his usual active, if not offensively skilled self. He had one throw down off a lob from Scott in the 1st half and picked up two blocks to trigger fast breaks. 

Ravenel was solid with six points and two boards in nine minutes while Amir Williams picked up three points and three boards in seven minutes. Good numbers, but he did show his lack of strength and lift off the floor as Meyers swatted him at point blank range. LaQuinton Ross added five points in five minutes but don't get your hopes up, he was still the 9th or 10th player to see action. 

For the game, OSU shot a red hot 65% from the field including 7/13 from distance while winning the glass 32-23. They did register 19 turnovers but just 11 of those came from starters. Conversely, the Illini hit just 40% from the floor and 17% from beyond the arc (3/18). Brandon Paul, he of the 43 point night in the first matchup was held to nine points on 2/9 shooting mostly due to Craft taking up refuge in his britches when matched up. 

Overall, it's cool to feel good about the win but anything less than a blowout would have been a failure against an Illini team with no soul. It was nice, but not atypical, for WB to shred a bad team, Thomas looked superb just as he did in the first matchup and Craft was a little more aggressive but Sullinger just never got into the flow and nobody on the bench showed anything we haven't seen. 

Still, a win's a win and it improves OSU to 11-4 in conference, tied with Michigan for 2nd place, half a game back of a Sparty team that travels to Minnesota for a Wednesday night tilt. 



Comments Show All Comments

Seabass1974's picture

This team leaves me to keep wondering which one will show up game to game.

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. - Woody Hayes

Alex Root's picture

I missed the game, I know who said Ross was the 9th or 10th guy off the bench but he was 2/3 with 5 points, maybe that was a glimpse of something. Maybe Matta should give him a few more minutes to give us a little off the bench. I don't expect him to score a bunch but if he could get 5-7 points off the bench that would be nice.

slippy's picture

It's not worth it.  He's lazy as shit rebounding and his defense is lackluster.  Maybe he wasn't trying because it was a blowout but it didn't look good.

BuckeyeJim's picture

I thought Ross looked well on offense, but he didn't do so well on defense. With such limited playing time, I don't think anyone could ask for more. Give him more playing time coach.

RecruitBuck's picture

Ross showed some strength I thought. He and Williams should get some time when they take both Sully and Buford out at the same time...need scoring still.

AcrossTheField11's picture

Could this team playing their A game beat Sparty, Syracuse,  Kentucky playing their own A game?

I say yes to the first two... thirds a toss up.  Thoughts?

Time and change will surely show how firm they friendship... O-HI-O.

RecruitBuck's picture

If Craft and Buford make their shots, then I think it'd be close. Defensively we match up well. Plus by not having a slashing scorer, we somewhat take Davis' shotblocking ability away; however, Deshaun would have a hell of a time with his putbacks.

Bucketcentric's picture

Sully's pushoff looked more like a box out and then a dramatic flailing by Leonard when he realized Sully would catch the pass and score.  Possibly looking at it through Scarlet and Grey colored glasses.  Anyone else like the idea of Deshaun as a stretch 4 even when he has the size advantage.  I like when he shoots 3's this year.  Would like to see if he became a less athletic Kevin Durant type and our offense focused more on his scoring/shooting abilities.

BuckeyeMark's picture

We looked great tonight but look at who we were playing.  Hard to draw many conclusions from playing a team like that.  Kinda wondering how long Bruce Weber is gonna be around...

Bucketcentric's picture

Also Ross did not want to pass and wanted to showcase his abilities. He had a sweet spin move and showed good handles and finishing.  Took a ill advised 3, and noone wanted to pass him the ball in the waining seconds because it seemed likely he would hoist another shot.  Also as stated above he seems like a real defensive liability.

RecruitBuck's picture

It's hard to tell defensively. He had good movement, but obviously wanted the ball like crazy to show what he could do. I mean, if Buford is having an off night, throw him in please.

RedStorm45's picture

Thought Craft/Scott at the same time provided a new wrinkle.  It's tough though because neither guy is a very good outside shooter, so you basically have two guys at 6^2 who have to get inside of 16 feet to be a threat to shoot.  Scott is a HORRENDOUS shooter from anywhere on the floor.  Still, a nice move by Matta I think, more rest for Buford and Smith.  Thomas is straight ballin right now.  A little undersized at the 4, would be interesting to see him at the 3 spot for a few minutes a game (even Sully over to the 4 and Williams at the 5 and go big?? I'm dreaming, I know).  Cannot count on that hot of shooting against Wisconsin or on the road to finish out the season, still nice to see some shots fall.

O-H-I-Owe-U's picture

The Craft/Scott combo adds a lot of speed to the perimeter which makes life easier for Sully and the wings. Also gives Buford and Thomas a chance to rest a few minutes a half. I want more of this the rest of the season. 

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

Not sure why Matta doesn't use his timeouts when he sees the team turn it over or make lazy passes. What happened to the 'chew their ass' coach I love so much?

Brutus's picture

So I think I know why we don't see more of the bench players during the game:  because they just aren't that good (yet).  Two things happen when we go to the bench: we score less and the other team scores more.  I'm not a coach, but that strikes me as a bad thing.  As has been stated many times already, none of them, save for Thompson and his occassional blocked shot, plays defense.  And they don't exactly shoot well either.  Williams was in early and looked lost.  Scott really can't do anything besides dribble fairly well.  Ross looked decent against the end of the Illinois bench, but he's like Deshaun Thomas last year whenever he got the ball, he shoots it like it's going to burn a hole in his hand. 

Matta is playing the guys he thinks can actually help this team win.  The reason these guys don't get more minutes is because they are a liability on the court.  We argue about seeing more of Williams and Ross and whoever because these guys were studs in high school and for some reason we've led oursleves to believe that they'll be able to dominate at this level as well, despite having no data to support this assumption.  We do the same thing with guys we want to see more of on the football team (Rod Smith, Jamaal Berry).  At the end of the day, we don't know jack about who to start and who can play well.  Matta does.  That's good enough for me. 

That said, I do wonder why we haven't seen more of Siebert this year.  I thought he was ahead of Scott but he doesn't seem to get any minutes anymore.  Dakich  seemed to imply that Siebert was in Matta's dog house for one reason or another.  Anyone know the deal?  Or is Siebert really just not that good either?


Chris Lauderback's picture

I've never heard anything about Sibert being in the doghouse - at least not for anything off the court. I have always assumed he lost his spot in the rotation because he only earned to begin with based on the notion he could shoot but he has been awful.

In non-conf, he shot 29% from the field and 26% from three. In conf, he's shot 26% from both inside and outside the arc.

Already just a marginal defender, there was no reason for Matta not to replace Sibert with Thompson in the rotation since Thompson offers better D. Thompson won't stretch the defense either but at least he hits 52% from the field - though most of that is because roughly 67% of his shots (a rough guess) are dunks.

VestedInterest's picture

I'm not going to say this win means a whole lot, because Illi has just been plain terrible defensively. If nothing else the Bucks needed the win going forth as a confidence boost. We shot 70% in the first half and 60% in the second with a good amount of bench players in the game. Making shots is what the difference was in this outing vs. the last few, it's really just that simple.

RBuck's picture

I hope Sully enjoyed his game-long nap.

Long live the southend.

buckeyeEddie27's picture

"At times, his jumper looks as flat as Calista Flockhart"    HA!

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

Buckeye Chuck's picture

The best part of the game was those lengthy minutes from the bench. Though as was pointed out, Illinois has packed it in about as thoroughly as a team can, so it's questionable how much it all means.

There's still that suspicion that these guys are frontrunners--beating up on weaklings, but struggling if a team with similar talent gets them into a close game.

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


Buford had a good game because we were playing Illinois. I think he has a little Lebron in him he disappears in all of the big games. He just has no clutchness about him

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

It was Illinois.  They have lost 6 straight and just lost to Nebraska.  This game was meaningless.  Thank goodness for D-Thomas though, he played great.

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

Neilwoodgables's picture

Sulkinger again.

I Hate Michigan.