With their 75-55 win over Penn State Wednesday, Ohio State has now won five of their last six games.
got their second-straight double-digit win over a conference opponent Wednesday, dismantling Penn State
75-55. Here are my major takeaways from a big win over an over matched opponent.
Sam D's up: While much will be made of Sam Thompson's career-high 22 points (and should be), his defense was the bigger story to me. He made things incredibly difficult on the conference's leading scorer in D.J. Newbill. I wasn't surprised that he was the primary defender on Newbill, who at 6-4 is likely too big for Shannon Scott, but I think Thompson has been the team's best defender all year. His hands aren't as good as Scott's, but his length and lateral quickness elevate him above the point guard for me.
Senior's big night: While Thompson was prolific at both ends against Penn State, he wasn't the only Buckeye senior to record a career high. Scott pulled down 10 rebounds, a new personal best and an impressive feat from the 6-1 guard. While it was in a blowout, it was nice to see the two seniors, players who have had to take a back seat to the talented freshmen class this season, get some shine Wednesday.
"We’ve only got three games left in this building or whatever it is, the sand in the hour glass is winding down for those guys," Thad Matta said of the seniors. "You hope that they have that sense of urgency to focus and intensify everything that they’re doing to play their best basketball down the stretch.”
Super small: Without Marc Loving (suspension) or Anthony Lee (groin) the Buckeyes were left with just two big men and when Amir Williams and Trey McDonald predictably got in foul trouble, Matta went with his super small lineup. With 4:15 left in the first half the Buckeyes lineup featured Thompson (6-7), D'Angelo Russell (6-5), Jae'sean Tate (6-4), Kam Williams (6-2) and Scott (6-1). Ohio State is incredibly dangerous with that lineup in transition, and if the guards are able to rebound it can work for them. They did give up some easy dunks in that lineup, so overall a mixed bag. Loving may be back for Michigan State, so the Buckeyes may not have to go to that look again.
Matta also used a lineup with Keita Bates-Diop (6-7) in for Tate.
Diop's D: Speaking of Bates-Diop, he continues to show me flashes of what he can be: an excellent basketball player. His length is tremendous, which allows him not only to deflect passes and block shots, but to recover when he does get out of position. Extending the margin of error on defense for a freshman like that is huge. There was one particular possession where KBD's help defense was phenomenal, rotating into the post to alter a shot and pull in a rebound. He didn't shoot great, but finished with 7 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals. He's going to continue to improve and he is going to be really, really good.
Foul trouble: The fact that McDonald and Amir Williams got in foul trouble was not surprising, but it is concerning for the Buckeyes going forward if Lee doesn't return soon. Matta said the injury was day-to-day. While Lee has his limitations, he is the best big man at avoiding foul trouble. If the Buckeyes are forced to go small because of foul trouble, rather than making the conscious decision to so so, a better opponent will take advantage.
Honestly, that's all I got tonight. It wasn't the most interesting or telling game and we will know a lot more about how Ohio State's season will end after Saturday's game at Michigan State.