The Buckeyes played an abysmal first half offensively, but rebounded to cut what had been a 19 point deficit to a three-point margin in the final minutes. Here’s what I saw:
- Problems with pressure: The Buckeyes faced a stiffer defensive test than they had all season, but considering that Louisville is one of the best in the country on that end of the floor, things can’t get much more difficult.
- Post Problems: It was concern No. 1 entering the game, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise that the Cardinals dominated the Buckeyes down low. The points in the paint ended up even and Ohio State was only barely out-rebounded 46-42, but those stats don’t tell the full story.
- Attacking the Zone: The interior first-half success forced a slight change in tactics from the Buckeyes zone. The wings crashed down harder on the post after intermission, trying to disrupt Harrell and his post cohorts. That was effective, but it left Louisville with open looks from outside.
- Lots to like: The Buckeyes looked bad for stretches Tuesday, like really bad and for really long stretches. But that’s OK. It’s one nonconference game on Dec. 2 and the way that Ohio State fought back is a great sign. Thad Matta teams almost always get better as the season unfolds and the youth on the roster elevates the likelihood of that happening.
Still, Ohio State struggled with the Cardinals pressure, most notably Shannon Scott. The senior didn’t record an assist and was turned over five times. He often used his speed to get by the pressure, but then seemed to get too far into the teeth of the Louisville defense, often with no plan of where to go with the ball.
It was an uncharacteristic game from Scott, and I don’t expect the ill effects to carry over. With freshman surrounding him the point guard may have tried to do too much, but as those young players grow and he gets more comfortable as the point guard he will return to the Scott that dominated early, or at least some version of that player.
Louisville will make a lot of guards look bad this season, Scott is just the first notable victim.
During the first, and ultimately decisive, half the Buckeyes looked helpless down low. They were pushed around by the Louisville bigs, most notably Montrezl Harrell. Louisville out-rebounded Ohio State 28-17 in the first half, including 11 offensive boards. Luckily for the Buckeyes, few teams in the country have a front line as imposing as Louisville.
“They were shooting like 24 percent from 3 and they hadn’t shown to attack the corners,” Thomson said. “We wanted to make them make some shots before we gave them the easy ones in the lane. Give them some credit, they made some shots.”
That was one of the variety of ways the Cardinals attacked the zone. The attempted lob plays, attacking over the top in the same manner that James Madison attempted to do, but weren’t very successful. Aside from the open outside looks when passing out of the post, Louisville was most successful when getting the ball to Harrell at the free-throw line. When the Buckeyes centers had to guard him there, the forward made them pay by finding baseline cutters.
It is far more likely that in March Ohio State looks back at this game as one of many moments to grow from than it does as foreshadowing for an ultimately disappointing season.