From that point it was only natural for Matta to force himself to think neutral thoughts.
"We're still bad," joked Matta moments after watching his second-ranked Ohio State basketball team dispatch No. 3 Duke, 85-63. Unfortunately for the head coach, he can't control the statement his Buckeyes just on college basketball's biggest stage.
Ohio State (7-0) was already regarded as one of the best teams in the nation. After its dominant victory over the previously unbeaten Blue Devils (7-1), the Buckeyes could shoot to the top spot in the polls next week.
"Sometimes you just get you butt kicked," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Sometimes we kick butt. Tonight, my butt is sore."
We take a look a closer look at the Buckeyes' big victory Duke in the latest version of View From Press Row:
For the first time this season, "The Microwave" turned on — Deshaun Thomas has earned a lot of nicknames during his time with the Buckeyes, most of which refer to his propensity to want to shoot the ball early and often. He got the early part right against the Blue Devils by missed his first two shots from the floor in what looked like an eager attempt to impress NBA mega stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who were sitting courtside at the game. Then for the first time all season, Thomas put his entire game together and took over the contest against one of the best teams in the nation.
Scoring in double-figures for the sixth consecutive game, Thomas responded to his first two missed field goals by knocking down his next seven shot attempts. Finishing the first half with the Buckeyes' final nine points, Thomas was the spark that helped his team gain a 47-28 advantage at halftime.
Ohio State knows where it is going to get its scoring from, but if Thomas puts together spurts of basketball like the one he did against Duke, it will be hard to envision any team being able to overcome that. Thomas finished the game with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 2-of-4 from beyond the arc, which is basically the best-case scenario for the sophomore forward. Though a lot of guys made plays, Thomas was the reason for this rout. Being consistent, now, is the next step in the maturation of his game.
William Buford finding that aggressiveness — Bad shots and even a passive attitude popped up on occasion in the first few games of Buford's senior season. Now, the senior seems to be finding his groove as the team's top scoring threat. Coming into the game having made his last six attempts from beyond the arc in the team's last two contests, Buford was all over the place in a 20-point performance. Not only did he make 2-of-3 attempts from long range, Buford connected on 8-of-15 shot attempts and really found that aggression that made him one of the best players in the Big Ten a year ago.
This aggressive play makes him that kind of player yet again and he is starting to seem more and more like an NBA 2-guard with every passing game now. Thomas is a spark, but Buford needs to be that consistent scorer this team relies on. Over the course of the last three games, the senior has really shown me that.
Can't say enough about Aaron Craft — I will say that I thought the sophomore point guard made some errors in decision making tonight on a few of his pass attempts and shot selections, but it is impossible to nitpick this guy's game. Not only does he look like the best defender in college basketball – he makes plays in every game that makes people on press row look at each other and say ‘Wow' – he is even a scoring threat for the Buckeyes. Connecting on 7-of-11 shot attempts, including 3-of-4 from long range, Craft scored 17 points and added eight assists. He is looking like the most complete point guard in the country.
Jared Sullinger is as consistent as it gets — There's a reason Coach K didn't hesitate to praise Sullinger, who scored 21 points and had eight rebounds in the contest. This is what the big man does every night, bar none. Going to the free throw line seven times and making five of those attempts, Sullinger is always going to draw fouls and make shot attempts inside regardless of the opponent or situation. I assume more teams will continue to try and take him away while forcing the Buckeyes to make shots from outside, but there isn't much you can say about Sullinger except that he is as consistently good as any player in college basketball.
How about some bench? — It's clear where Matta stands with his bench. He will have a seven-man rotation in big games and that doesn't look to be on track to change any time soon. However, clinging to a 20-point lead for most of the second half, I thought it would have been appropriate to at least sub in guys like Jordan Sibert, Shannon Scott or Sam Thompson down the stretch. If Duke responds with a run, you can always get the starters back onto the floor. If Matta is looking for an opportunity for his youthful players to really gain some in-game experience, I don't see a better time than subbing them in against the Blue Devils and letting things ride. Instead, Matta waited until there was roughly 2:15 remaining in the game to clear his bench, directly after there was an injury scare with Lenzelle Smith Jr. In hindsight, some of those guys should have been off the floor long that point for a variety of different reasons.
J.D. Weatherspoon always brings a spark when he's on the floor — He was on the floor for one minute and of course he got a bucket. Weatherspoon was close to being on the right end of a huge dunk, but he finished gently instead. Every time he is hit the floor this year he's provided a spark. Though he seems like a guy that is still a year away, I have a gut feeling but that he is going to be a really special player in the future at Ohio State.
Next barometer for this team will be on the road. This was huge win, but we'll learn a lot Dec. 10 at Kansas — A colleague made a good point when I was discussing with him where I saw this team headed this season. I was quick to jump the gun, saying I thought the Buckeyes were going to put together another incredible regular season run. He stopped me, though, quickly reminding me that this is a young team that we've yet to see play on the road. That is a huge point and there is a lot one can tell about the maturity and toughness of a team by how it responds to a hostile crowd on the road when things aren't necessarily going as planned. Duke was certainly a statement win, but I suspect we'll really learn a lot about this Ohio State basketball team when it plays Kansas on the road. That is a crazy arena where wins aren't easy. We'll see the grit of this Buckeyes team then.
OSU establishes itself as best team in college basketball right now — Nobody expected Ohio State to win by such a big margin, but being the first team to knock off Duke in November since Marquette did it in 2006 means something. Matta said he'd learn a lot about his team tonight and I think it is clear that he did. This was a statement win for the Buckeyes, who in my opinion have earned the top spot in the polls and should be considered the premier team in college basketball until proven otherwise.