We were all talking about how Michigan State was better than its record, how the Spartans always play the Buckeyes tough and all the usual lip service paid to a team with high preseason expectations coached by a well-respected leader. Until the game began, however, that is all it was – lip service.
If you removed the names from the press releases and simply looked at the statistics coming into the game, you would have picked the Buckeyes to win by 20. But what we saw Tuesday night was a dangerous MSU team that could still make some noise with games remaining against Minnesota, Purdue and Michigan.
Honestly, it looked like MSU head coach Tom Izzo was on the verge of tears after this game. This team has been through a lot, but they did some things better against the Buckeyes than anyone we have seen all year. Chief among them was score in the paint, something OSU will have to tighten up in a major way come tournament time.
This was a far more dangerous team than the record indicated, and we saw why as the game dragged on. Big win for the Buckeyes.
I think … that David Lighty has lost confidence in his jumper.
His numbers have been down as of late. After hitting 45.9 percent of his treys in the first 16 games of the season, the senior entered the MSU game 5 for his last 20 (25.0 percent). Against the Spartans, he went 1 for 4 and gave up a number of open looks rather than hoist another one up.
It is clear that he is looking to regain something from behind the arc. What that is I do not know, but the Buckeyes need teams to respect his outside shot if they want to make a deep tournament run.
I think … that another thing OSU is going to need is for Deshaun Thomas to start scoring again.
The freshman has looked totally lost as of late on the court. Since scoring 13 points in the blowout win against Purdue, Thomas has scored seven points in five games and officially gone 0 for 3 from the floor. I say officially because that total must not include at least a pair of airballs I can immediately recall.
For the season, Thomas is averaging 8.1 points per game. Ten games ago, he was averaging in double figures. When he goes scoreless, that is nearly 10 points the Buckeyes have to get from somewhere else. Getting a handful of points from him on any given night eases the pressure on William Buford, Jon Diebler and any other number of players.
He also needs to start playing better for himself. I am sure OSU head coach Thad Matta would like to play him more, but Thomas does not appear to be progressing as you would hope from such a prolific prep scorer. Rather, he is making it harder for the coaches to trust him in games. That, as a result, is keeping his behind firmly planted on the bench.
I have seen nothing to indicate that Thomas is unhappy with his role, and the Buckeyes have to hope that stays that way. For this team to capture a title – any title – they need to all be focused on the same goals and not distracted by a lack of playing time.
I think … that Diebler looked more like the Diebler of old in this game even despite the fact that he went 2 for 7 from three-point range.
For the first time in several games, I felt like the senior was trying to force the issue on offense. He caught the ball looking to shoot and even forced a shot or two. Normally that is not a course of action I would condone, but Diebler has looked too hesitant at times to try and make a big play.
This was a big step for him and showed just how many weapons the Buckeyes have on a given night.
I think … that OSU needs to find ways to get Jared Sullinger the ball closer to the basket.
Both Wisconsin and MSU did a pretty good job of getting him to catch the ball with his back to the basket and about 15 feet from the hoop. Although he can score outside, that is not where his game primarily lies right now. The big fella gets his by getting the ball on the block and scoring through contact.
Teams are clearly trying to keep him away from the basket, and the last two have had some success. Now let's see if he can make an adjustment and start getting the ball closer to the hoop.