With just over seven minutes remaining and Ohio State with a 60-47 lead over Maryland on Thursday night, D'Angelo Russell launched a contested 3-pointer from the top of the key.
As the ball traveled through the air it appeared as if Russell was going to miss long. He didn't. Instead, the ball banked off the backboard and went straight into the hoop.
Of course it did.
Because when you're as good as Russell, those types of things happen. He makes shots in games that most people only try in a game of HORSE. Even assistant coach Greg Paulus gave a wry smile from the bench as the Buckeyes jogged back to the defensive end.
|Maryland||6-12 (.55)||4-6 (.667)||14||6||18|
|Indiana||9-15 (.600)||2-7 (.286)||6||10||22|
|at Northwestern||12-17 (.706)||6-11 (.545)||7||6||33|
|at Iowa||10-22 (.455)||4-8 (.500)||14||2||27|
|Michigan||6-12 (.500)||3-8 (.375)||4||6||21|
“When he banked the one in I said, ‘Come on, man,'” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said following the Buckeyes' 80-56 rout of the Terrapins. "He said, ‘Coach, you’ve seen me practice that shot.'"
Except it wouldn't be a surprise if Russell actually practiced shots like that. He's a tireless worker who Matta says is "the first one in and last one out." While his teammates either sleep or study on flights home from road trips, Russell watches film of Ohio State's latest game on his iPad.
"I’ve got to be honest with you, I enjoy watching him play,” Matta said.
The rest of the country is starting to enjoy it, too.
Russell has been on a tear over the last five games for the Buckeyes. He is averaging 24.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists as Ohio State has gone 4-1 and won three straight.
“I credit the losses. I feel like the losses that we had at the beginning of the year make us who we are now.”– D'Angelo Russell
Russell is also shooting 55 percent from the floor and 48 percent from 3-point range over this current five-game span. He's committing just two turnovers per game and had zero in wins against Maryland and Northwestern.
"I credit the losses. I feel like the losses that we had at the beginning of the year make us who we are now," Russell said. "I feel like everybody brings what they're supposed to do to the table and there's no turning around we just keep moving forward and keep getting better every day."
His play, specifically over the last couple of weeks of the season has allowed Ohio State to resurface on the national stage. The Buckeyes are starting to look like one of the better teams in the Big Ten.
Russell's name is starting to appear more and more in talks about Big Ten Player of the Year and spots on the All-American First Team. He's even a dark horse National Player of the Year candidate.
Ohio State is also starting to look like a scary out when the NCAA Tournament comes around in March. As we've seen countless times before, when you have a player like Russell, you always have a shot in a one-and-done tournament format.
"He’s just playing basketball," Matta said. "It’s so refreshing to coach a guy like that it is saying whatever I’ve got to do to help this team win."