Observations: Matta Makes History

The Buckeyes got a big 77-67 win over Penn State last night, their third straight win.

With Ohio State’s 77-67 win over Penn State last night, Thad Matta improved to 297-91 as the Buckeyes head coach. That victory puts him even with legendary coach Fred Taylor for the most wins in Ohio State history, a tremendous accomplishment in seven fewer seasons than Taylor coached.

Buckeye fans should appreciate Matta while they have him as it is unclear how long his health will allow him to remain on the bench.

Anyway, now that the hat tip to Matta is out of the way, here is what I took away from Ohio State’s 10-point win in Happy Valley.

  • Kam making strides: Kam Williams is slowly, quietly making strides as a player. Against Purdue he spelled D’Angelo Russell on defense and I think that effort was rewarded Wednesday night as he was the first reserve off the bench for Ohio State. He finished with six points and missed his only three-point attempt, but Williams shot with confidence when he did fire away and unlike earlier in the season, he doesn’t look uncomfortable out there without the ball in his hands. If he keeps playing like this the minutes and the points will come.
  • Point guard questions: When Shannon Scott and Russell each had two fouls in the first half it reminded me of a concern I had about this team entering the season, there is no third ball handler. While the problem has rarely surfaced (I forgot about it, after all), it would be an untimely issue to deal with if it cropped up in the postseason. Prior to the start of the year I was told that Sam Thompson would be the emergency point guard. As far as I know, that is still the case.
  • Thompson’s tip in: Speaking of Thompson, he provided a moment last night that I had never seen in a game before. While guarding an inbound pass in the full-court press he skied to tip the pass and it kissed gently off the backboard and went in. With 2:34 left in the first half Thompson got the most unlikely and unintentional two points I have ever seen. I was watching alone and said aloud, “Wow, that was amazing.”
  • Scott misses Thompson: Just 1:30 into the game I saw another thing I can't remember seeing, Scott missed Thompson in transition for what would have been an alley-oop. I've seen the point guard misfire on a pass to the forward before, but this is the first time in a long time I can remember Scott just not seeing Thompson. Instead of an easy dunk, Scott took a midrange jumper that rimmed out.
  • Trapping Russell: As the BTN announcers pointed out over and over, Penn State was trapping Russell off of ever screen in the first half. That left the guard with few options and once he was even forced to call a timeout as he was pinned against the sideline. The Buckeyes went away from that action in the second half, but its ineffectiveness highlighted the absence of Anthony Lee, who missed his sixth straight game with a groin injury. He is the only effective big at rolling in to the basket, the only one that Russell should trust to make a catch and a solid basketball move more than 8 feet from the rim. Without his services, the double team is much easier for the opposition to go to on those screens.
  • Loving still lacking: Marc Loving can’t buy a bucket. The sophomore went without a field goal, missing three times from behind the arc. The good news for the Buckeyes is he did seem engaged. While he was burned by D.J. Newbill the few unfortunate times he was matched up against him, Loving seemed to be giving good effort defensively and he hauled in nine rebounds. The hope would be that if he can stay engaged, the shot will finally start falling.

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