The No. 3 Buckeyes earned a 64-45 victory but struggled along the way, trailing for more than half of the first half and committing a season-high 16 turnovers in the victory. With a game set for Friday afternoon (4 p.m., Big Ten Network) against Miami (Ohio), the two seniors were ready to cut back their Thanksgiving plans.
Asked if they would be taking the holiday off, Lighty said, "No, we need to practice after today. We'll eat at the gym." Immediately, Diebler added, "This is our extended family so we're all right with that."
Such is life as a college athlete. Head coach Thad Matta said the plan was to practice Thursday morning before going to his house for Thanksgiving dinner and that the court time had been scheduled in advance of the game against the Eagles.
The sluggish performance Tuesday night simply heightened the need to get back on the court.
"I thought we got knocked back a little bit on our heels early in the game," Matta said after the game. "We weren't as sharp as we needed to be. This was a good lesson for us."
For the first time this season, it might have been a case of the Buckeyes reflecting the youth on their roster. Of the seven players to see action, four are freshmen and each saw at least 15 minutes of playing time. Freshman Jordan Sibert missed all five of his shot attempts and had one turnover in 15 minutes, while starters Aaron Craft and Jared Sullinger combined for eight turnovers.
The need to play the underclassmen was heightened by the fact that junior guard William Buford did not play due to back spasms. He is expected back in the lineup tonight against the RedHawks.
The Eagles gave the Buckeyes problems with their zone defense. Lighty said OSU was too similar to a pair of windshield wipers in its efforts to penetrate the defense – that is, they kept passing the ball back and forth up high rather than trying to attack.
Matta said his team's performance was a surprise given that the Buckeyes had seen a similar zone during a preseason scrimmage against Baylor, a team currently ranked 13th in the nation at 4-0. However, the coach said the problems attacking the zone were just part of the overall performance that left something to be desired.
"We were standing and watching," he said. "We didn't have very many possessions where there was a continuous flow to what we were trying to do. Guys were lining up in the wrong spot. We were pathetic (Tuesday) in drawing something up in a timeout and going out and guys couldn't see it through. Those are the things you've got to get better at."
For that, both Diebler and Lighty took the blame as upperclassmen.
"We have to make sure every game that everyone is ready to play," Diebler said. "That's on us. (The Eagles) came out ready to play and we weren't. You've got to give them a lot of credit because they did what they were supposed to and they hung with us."
Matta spoke with reporters after his players. Asked for his response to comments from the seniors, the head coach shifted the blame a bit.
"It's a lot like I told the young guys when they came in this summer: I said we've got great leadership but it's only effective if you allow yourself to be led," Matta said. "It's important to (Diebler and Lighty). They want to do a better job of leading so that's huge for us."
Helping the situation is the fact that the Buckeyes have a rare non-conference contest against an in-state foe. Matta has repeatedly said he does not like such games because of the repercussions of losing to such an opponent. During the 2008-09 season, OSU fought off an upset challenge from Bowling Green to earn a 61-57 victory.
In the second exhibition game of the 2007-08 season, when Diebler was a freshman, the Buckeyes suffered a 70-68 loss to Division II foe Findlay. The non-freshmen on this year's roster scrimmaged the RedHawks in a closed event last season.
"They get the job done," Diebler said of 2-3 Miami, which has faced No. 1 Duke this season. "They're not going to be scared to come in here and play us with the schedule they played. We know we have to match their intensity."
A lesson likely understood even better given Tuesday's contest.
"We know we have to start the game a lot (tonight) better than we did (Tuesday)," Diebler said. "This is another Ohio team. They're going to want to come in and play here and they're going to give us their best effort."