There has been plenty of talk about mental toughness and the ability to withstand a team's best shot and respond with one of your own. On Saturday night in Ann Arbor, the Buckeyes did just that.
They had been down this road before – literally. In losses away from home, OSU had surrendered meager first-half leads against Minnesota and Michigan State in consecutive games in such similar fashion that the game against the Spartans gave me a case of déjà vu.
The first sign that the game against the Wolverines was not going to follow the same script came when the Buckeyes actually headed into halftime with the lead. Still, you had to expect the home team to find a way to will itself back into the game, and it did by eking out a four-point lead.
From there, a 14-3 OSU run (was Chris "Beanie" Wells involved?) put the game firmly back in the hands of the Buckeyes. I think this run was more than just a game-changer; I think it was a season-changer.
All that talk about playing tough and learning from past mistakes finally materialized in a big way against the Wolverines, and now the Buckeyes find themselves blessed with something I think they have been lacking since David Lighty went down: confidence.
That can be a double-edged sword, however. Next up is another tough road trip to Illinois, a team that pushed Michigan State to the wire in East Lansing a few hours before OSU's game.
A win there would make the Buckeyes 4-2 in an opening swing through conference play that saw them play four of their first six Big Ten games away from home. Posting that record – especially after dropping the first two – should make OSU fans both very happy and optimistic about what the future might hold for this season.
I think … I am going to start doing one shot of tequila for each long offensive rebound the Buckeyes give up out of their zone defense. The formation does a number of things so very well that I can not figure out why rebounding is not one of them.
The Buckeyes should be thankful that the Wolverines did not have a particularly hot-shooting night, because for all the effort OSU showed it was nearly undone by its lack of ability to locate the ball coming off the rim following a long three-point attempt.
I've been writing that they need to fix this for more than a year and a half now and here we are still, but I feel the matter bears addressing anyway.
I think … I am going to pass on that tequila deal, primarily because I don't want to be dead by halftime of the next game.
I think … the proverbial light bulb is starting to go off for Jeremie Simmons, but I'm not ready to anoint him as the true point guard this team's offense needs just yet. Against the Wolverines, there was a better offensive flow when Simmons was on the court and it seemed like Michigan was able to better dictate the flow of the game when he was on the bench saddled with foul trouble.
I still think there is plenty of work that needs to be done here, but I am starting to see some signs of progress in Simmons. As a last note on him, I really like the floater shot he displayed against the Wolverines – something I've not seen at OSU since Mike Conley left.
I think … B.J. Mullens deserves a shout-out here for attacking the basket with some ferocity against Michigan. This is the kind of game we've expected out of the freshman from day one, and I'm not the only one who has been frustrated by the pace of his progress this season.
If he keeps this up, I see no way he returns for a second season in college. Disguising him as a sixth man won't work when he starts demanding the ball down low and becoming a consistent offensive scoring threat.
I think … that for exactly those reasons, Dallas Lauderdale's time in the starting lineup is numbered. Head coach Thad Matta doesn't like to tinker with things like that as the season goes on and has recently said that he likes how the team's rotation is playing out, but if Mullens can consistently play like he did against Michigan then I want him in there more.