Sparty Suffocates Buckeyes, World Does Not End


Well, that does it.  It was a good season.  A valiant effort put forth by the Buckeyes, but one that ultimately resulted in the death of a season.  What once looked like a promising year that could end up with OSU as champions is now a vanished dream, thanks to a 58-48 loss to Michigan State.

Oh, wait, this is college basketball and that loss last night meant next to nothing in the long run.  Seriously, next to nothing.  I’ve read a few ridiculous tweets and comments on ESPN boards calling for Matta’s head, Deshaun Thomas to be benched, and Buford to be tarred and feathered.  Relax everyone, it’ll be ok.  I promise.  Now, with that said, there are definitely a few things that can be taken from last night’s ugly game.

#1 – Jared Sullinger needs to either hold the ball higher or get rid of the ball quicker.  Sullinger’s triple-double was mentioned may times by the announcers of the game.  Unfortunately, Sullinger’s third category was turnovers (10 total) and Tom Izzo’s defensive plan was made evident early and often.  OSU tried to funnel to ball into Sullinger, as they should, but inevitably the big man would bring the ball below his head, and at that point 2 or 3 Spartans would immediately close on him and grab or knock the ball loose.  The next step in this process was always for Sullinger to throw his arms into the air and complain to the officials.

This brings me to a personal complaint, and I’ll first start by saying that I think Jared Sullinger is a great young man, and tremendous basketball player.  However, if I had whined that much in any sport, beggin for calls, my dad would have sat me down and explained to me how stupid I looked.  Let your coach handle the refs while you play ball.  But I digress.

In the next couple of weeks, I’d like to see Sully speed up his play in the post.  I don’t mean that he should force shots or rush to the hoop.  But I would like to see him catch the pass and make an immediate post move to the basket, or kick the ball out to a shooter.  When he gives the defense time to collapse, it results in his frustration and a much less effective offense.

#2 – Defense must be a team effort…I’m looking at you, Deshaun. For the second straight game, Thomas’ defensive “hustle” was non-existent.  MSU was not shooting lights out, by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, their 3 point shooting was only 25%, but it was made to look a lot higher, thanks to our own 13.3% from behind the arc.  When watching the game, it was apparent on numerous occasions that Thomas was either confused or simply not putting forth the hustle needed to play Big Ten basketball. Sure, this is a bit harsh, but his jog down the court on defense led to a handful of Sparty points, in a game where points for either team were hard to come by.  I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that his frustration on the offensive end had something to do with his off day on both ends, but hope that this does not continue to be a trend.

Lost stat from the game: Aaron Craft helped force Keith Appling into 7 turnovers in the game, the highest of his career (previous high was 5 TOs).

#3 – When the shots are not falling, change things up.  Shooting through a slump is one thing if your teammates aren’t right there with you, but when two of our best scorers (Buford/Thomas) go 4 of 24 from the field, it’s time for a change.  David Lighty was not always the best scorer, but he had the ability to drive the lane and either get the floater or short jumper to fall, or he’d end up at the line.  Craft, and occasionally Smith, seem to be the only two on the team that attempt this.  Thomas is comfortable close to the hoop after an offensive board, and Buford would rather shoot a turnaround jumper than drive the lane.  Normally, I’d be fine with this, but again, when nothing is falling, ATTACK!  If nothing else, this will force the defense to respect the dribble and not plant themselves on top of the shooters at the arc.

#4 – ESPN is awful.  As someone tweeted yesterday during the poorest excuse for a basketball broadcast I’ve seen in years, “I’d rather be watching Cloverfield.”  Thanks a lot, ESPN, for constantly losing sound and freezing your picture for an entire night of basketball.  Keep up on the good work on being the “World Wide Leader” in sports.

To sum it up, I’d like to again stress that OSU is still tied for 1st in the Big Ten, and will still be in the tournament in March.  Remember UCONN in 2010?  They won their conference tournament and then the Big Dance, all the while going 9-9 in the Big East.  The Buckeyes have weaknesses, but they are still a 21-4 team.  Let’s all relax, take a deep breath, and see how Matta prepares the team for Minnesota on Tuesday.

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