I told you it would be a 19 point victory, and that it was. However, I was hit or miss on a few other predictions about last night’s game against #15 Loyola (MD), so let’s do a quick recap and then look ahead to Gonzaga…
#1 Guard (RJ Williams vs. Aaron Craft)
I suggested that it was a given that the lilliputian point guard for the Greyhounds, although he has protected the ball well all year, would inevitably turn it over at least three times in his battle against Aaron Craft. The “sturdy limb” that I thought I was climbing onto for that less than bold prediction collapsed, as Williams did not turn the ball over a single time. His downfall, however, was the fact that he was unable to pressure Craft without fouling. Williams fouled out of the contest with four assists and two points, to Craft’s four and eight, respectively. The little guy forced Craft to turn the ball over five times, but the size advantage and athleticism also helped give Craft a major edge in rebounds (five to zero) and steals (three to zero). The battle belonged to Craft, but Williams fought hard with enormous energy and hair to match.
#2 Guard (Dylon Cormier/Justin Drummond vs. Lenzelle Smith, Jr.)
I gave the edge in this matchup to Cormier/Drummond, saying that they would combine for 20-25 points, to Lenzelle’s six. In actuality, the pair finished with 18 points, and LSJ had just three. However, Smith, Jr. was a monster on the boards, hauling in eight rebounds, and helping to make sure that if Loyola missed a shot, there was no second scoring chance. As was the theme with this game, Drummond was largely ineffective because of his foul troubles. He, too, joined RJ Williams on the bench after fouling out of this game. Although LSJ easily outrebounded the pair from Loyola, they were able to get 18 points, so I’ll continue my generosity and give this one to the Greyhounds.
#3 Guard (Robert Olson vs. William Buford)
I’ll cut to the chase on this one, and just say that Buford won this matchup, as predicted. He held Olson to just seven points on the night, and a 1-11 performance from the field. Willy B, on the other hand, had a quiet but solid performance. He had just eleven points in the closing minutes of the game, but Loyola made a late “charge” that made Thad a bit nervous. At that time, Buford came back into the game, nailed a pair of deep balls, and cemented the win for the Bucks. In all, Buford’s numbers were good for a warm-up game, but not great. Either way, this battle was not close.
#4 Forward (Erik Etherly vs. Deshaun Thomas)
Erik Etherly is a ball player, and he proved it in Pittsburgh last night. He put up 19 points, had four blocks to just one personal foul, grabbed seven boards, shot 50% from the field, and had a couple of ESPN-worthy dunks
. The only problem was that he happened to be going up against Deshaun Thomas, who was on fire. Thomas had a career best 31 points, and grabbed twelve rebounds in the contest. The X Factor was simply in a zone, especially with his hook/lob shot from about twelve feet away in the paint (shown in the photo), which he successfully hit so many times that I had to check my remote to make sure it was back-chaptering on me, as it loves to do.
In summary, Thomas won this matchup, but I’d take a player like Etherly on my team any day of the week. In fact, he could hop onto several teams in the Big Ten and start right now, if that were his goal.
#5 Forward (Shane Walker vs. Jared Sullinger)
Despite some frustration issues, Sullinger had a very solid game agaisnt a team who clearly wanted to shut him down. He still managed to walk away with a double-double (twelve points, eleven rebounds) and his season high in blocks (five). In fact, if it weren’t for Loyola’s defensive strategy, having Etherly double down onto Jared in the paint, Sully could have easily ended up as the leading scorer in the game. Shane Walker ended the game with as many personal fouls as rebounds (four), and just eight points on the night.
On the night, the Buckeyes were able to shoot the ball close to their season averages, but their suffocating defense and power in the paint was too much for the Greyhounds of Loyola (MD). It was a good first round test for OSU, who now faces a red hot Gonzaga team that manhandled the WVU Mountaineers from start to finish of their #7/#10 game yesterday.
Overall Prediction: OSU 84 – Loyola (MD) 65
Actual Score: OSU 78 – Loyola (MD) 59