Throughout the past few weeks, I've heard head coach Thad Matta talk about how he is not concerned with playing his starters for the entirety of games. I've heard juniors Evan Turner and David Lighty talk about how practices are structured to give them more time to recuperate, more time to cope with the toll playing so many minutes can have on your body.
I've heard the talk, but I've also seen the action on the court – and it tells me that there are some tired legs starting to show up in Columbus.
Opponents are starting to shoot better at Value City Arena and they are getting better looks. All year long I've heard talk about how OSU's ball pressure is what makes it tough for opponents to shot, but it seems to me that teams are getting more open looks against the Buckeyes as of late. Look for an article on this sometime this week.
I'm aware that this could be the result of a general malaise that comes with playing the two worst teams in the league in back-to-back contests. Sometimes it's just hard to play your best basketball against a lesser foe. It is also possible that some guys on the team are going through inevitable slumps that happen during the course of a full college season.
Finally, I know that a minute here or there might not add up to much at the end of the season, so I'm not necessarily decrying the fact that all five starters were still in with 1:30 left against Iowa while leading by 10 points. I am decrying the fact that Jeremie Simmons, P.J. Hill and company could not get in any time in the first half in addition to time at the end of the game so the amount of rest for the starters would be meaningful.
To me, this adds up to a team that is starting to feel the effects of fatigue.
I think … that I simply have to point out the fact that Turner is very good at playing basketball.
How else can you say it? The guy puts up 32 points, seven rebounds, five assist and four steals while committing zero turnovers as he goes the full distance against the Hawkeyes. Even Matta is starting to allow himself to say that Turner is among the best players in the country, a sure sign that the junior is a serious contender for the award.
I think … that despite those tired-looking legs, the Buckeyes did some things well defensively. Of Iowa's first 12 turnovers, eight came on steals by the home team.
I think … that I overlooked Diebler's total stat line last game in the win against Penn State, when I lauded him for a big three-pointer but didn't notice his zero rebounds and assists.
This time against the Hawkeyes, I did notice his final stat line – and I was impressed. The junior was active defensively with three steals in the first half, a contributing factor to the fact that OSU scored 13 points off of turnovers during the stanza.
He was 2 of 5 from three as well as the only Buckeye to make one. The rest of the team combined to go 0 for 8 from behind the arc.
I think … that Matta has to be encouraged by the fact that his team shot so well from the free-throw line in this game. Early this season, missing from the charity stripe seemed to be the norm for the Buckeyes and posed a potential problem for them down the road.
In this game, the Hawkeyes were fouling at the end in a final, desperate attempt to give themselves a chance for a comeback. OSU responded by going a combined 22 for 27 (81.5 percent) from the line. Junior forward David Lighty led the way with a 9 for 10 performance made even more impressive by the fact that he was shooting 58.2 percent (53 for 91) heading into the game.
This performance upped his season percentage to 61.1 in the process.