As I've covered the team this year, I can't tell you how many times I've heard players or coaches talk about little things they are doing in practice that help prepare the players for things that are coming down the road. Drills, situations and the like are building a foundation of basketball knowledge that players can later use in crunch time.
Like, say, a must-win game two days after a tough loss against a team that has more than enough tape to know exactly what you are going to do all game long. Like the situation Ohio State found itself in with essentially just one day to prepare for Penn State after having lost to Illinois.
With a little more than 48 hours between tip-offs, Matta was able to unleash a different defense on the Nittany Lions that clearly frazzled them early on and helped OSU build a ridiculous first-half lead.
PSU adjusted and climbed back into the game, but the Buckeyes were able to then recover and land the knockout blow down the stretch in the second half to pull out the victory. To me, though, it started by getting the Nittany Lions off balance in the first half.
Head coach Ed DeChellis said afterward that he felt his team needed to throw the first punch and assume control early in order to come out of Columbus with a win. Instead, the Buckeyes did so and secured a key conference win thanks to Matta's ability to put in a new defense on such a short turnaround.
That takes some good coaching.
I think … I officially no longer understand why Dallas Lauderdale is getting the start over B.J. Mullens. I know, this is one paragraph after I praise Matta's coaching ability, but I admit that this one keeps me scratching my head.
Look at the final line. Lauderdale: three points, two rebounds, two turnovers and one block. Mullens: 13 points, five boards, two blocks and two steals. Also, no turnovers in 25 minutes of action – the first time that's happened in 13 games for the freshman.
I'm not sure what you get out of bringing Mullens off the bench anymore.
I think … I can not believe that the Buckeyes scored 73 points and won despite getting just six points from all-everything swingman Evan Turner. The sophomore had just four shots from the field, but he balanced that out with eight assists.
DeChellis said afterward that he would take his chances with the others if he could keep Turner under wraps. I guess that's a case of winning the battle but losing the war.
Maybe the Buckeyes have a little more depth than I've given them credit for all season.
I think … that whether he wants to admit it or not, Matta was sending a message to William Buford in the second half against the Nittany Lions. After Buford had 11 first-half points in 18 minutes of action, he did not score in the final 20 minutes and was on the court for just four of them.
He took 10 of the team's 26 shots in the first half, and he gunned a three-point attempt less than two minutes into the second half where he jumped to shoot even before taking a look at the basket. At the next stoppage of play, Buford was sent to the bench for Kyle Madsen and did not return for the rest of the game.
Matta said he wanted Madsen in because he wanted to go big against PSU's shooters. That doesn't make sense. Wouldn't you want to go small with more guards around the perimeter?
Buford is a great shooter, but he needs to learn when to be one during a game and when to pull the ball out and move it around. Maybe Matta was trying to teach him that against the Nittany Lions.
I think … I give the MVP award for the game to Jeremie Simmons for his actions one day before the game. It takes a real team player to tell the coach to take him out of the starting lineup and let the backup play, and the fact that Simmons did that tells me that he's serious about becoming a winner at OSU.
Kudos to him. It doesn't hurt that he had a game-high 14 points, either.