In a game that featured the Buckeyes playing the same role North Carolina did an evening earlier, Ohio State withstood a series of second half runs from a Golden Bears team who once trailed by 24 to win the consolation game in the 2K Sports Classic by 6.
The Villain chipped in 6 free throws in the final minute to help secure the victory. On the night, Mr. Turner stroked an outrageously efficient 9/14 attempts from the field in recording 26 points to go along with 14 rebounds, his 4th double double in as many games. Turner also racked up 6 assists, 4 in the first half, finishing a few dimes shy of his second trip-doub for the young season.
After Cal trimmed an early Buckeye advantage to just 18-16 halfway through the first, Ohio State used timely defense and actually having the shots that weren't dropping an evening earlier fall to jump out to a 35-28 first half advantage. The Buckeyes went into half shooting the ball vastly better than they did the evening prior but also brought a different defensive look, playing a significant amount of 2-3 zone to trip up the Golden Bears. Dallas Lauderdale continued to show what the Buckeyes were missing in their first two by putting up 6 points and 4 blocks (including 3 emphatic swats) in the first half alone. Perhaps the highlight of the first half was ESPN sideline reporter Doris Burke mistakenly calling Coach Matta "Coach Knight" in her first half exit interview of the coach. While Matta was no doubt humbled by the inadvertent comparison, I can't personally imagine The General having operated in near that little man-to-man during an opening half.
Behind the shooting prowess of Turner and Jon Diebler, the Bucks came out of the locker room still stroking it expanding their lead all the way up to 52-28. Cal's help side defense left much to be desired for the entirety of the afternoon resulting in the Buckeyes shooting 51% from the field on 25-49 attempts and 40% from 3 on just 6-15 shots. Diebler was the Bucks' second leading scorer netting 14 behind 3 three point makes. Cal would go onto follow a Mike Montgomery technical with a 17-2 run midway through the second half, but the game never got closer than the 6 point final margin as the Bucks rolled comfortably to the W. The Villain, JD, and David Lighty would finish the evening having played all 40 minutes in the contest. No rest for the weary, indeed.
David Lighty's box score presence (11 and 6 with 3 steals) doesn't near account for the ways his hustle and aggressiveness at driving to the hoop impacted the game. Any doubts about how #23 would return from last season's crippling injury have to be afterthoughts at this point after Lighty's early showings have been critical from a hustle and leadership standpoint. Lingering worries about Lauderdale's broken finger also all but have to be a thing of the past, with Swatterdale finishing with 7(!) blocks on the evening.
Perhaps the only negative to take away has been the continued by and large absence of Wil Buford in the last several games. Buford chipped in 12 points and 5 assists, but was just 4/11 from the field, including a few more frustrating, ill conceived attempts. Buford, widely considered by many scouts a late lottery/middle of the 1st round caliber talent, will need a return to the high ceiling format he exhibited at times last season for the Buckeyes to have a chance in their admittedly uphill battle for the Big Ten regular season crown.
The Bucks' underwhelming next victim comes in the Lipscomb Bisons, who'll collect their checks to take their pummeling Tuesday night at 6:00 pm in The Schott.