I vividly recall OSU's last foray into Illinois, and it was not pretty. In that 67-49 loss, the Buckeyes were unable to penetrate the middle of the Fighting Illini's defense and subsequently got few good looks.
Getting to the basket still proved difficult this time, but the difference was that Diebler and Lighty were hitting from deep in the first half. The fact that Turner was held to four points and Dallas Lauderdale was not getting his customary first-half dunks was rendered meaningless by the fact that Lighty had 12 first-half points and Diebler had connected on three treys.
That enabled the Buckeyes to seize control of the game despite the fact that, at times, Illinois' defensive game plan was working. Plus, not much demoralizes a rowdy opposing crowd than a few early three-pointers, and the Buckeyes excelled at this.
The early hot shooting helped take both the Illinois fans and players out of the game, and by the time they tried to rally it was far too late.
I think … that Diebler's performance is more impressive given how the ball often found its way into his hands. A big point of emphasis for any team is to hit shooters in the hands with a pass. Do not make them adjust to one side or the other or, even worse, pick the ball off the court in order to get a shot off.
OSU did not get many clean looks to Diebler, but he still knocked down the shots. That was big.
I think … that Lauderdale is slowly evolving into a more complete and confident post man. The junior center finished with nine points and went 3 for 4 from the charity stripe in the process.
You have to like what he is giving the Buckeyes on offense down the stretch. Getting nearly 10 points from Lauderdale on a nightly basis will go a long way toward helping relieve pressure on the OSU guards, particularly when tournament time comes along.
I think … that Jeremie Simmons also deserves some kudos for his play against the Fighting Illini. Normally, only being able to play sophomore William Buford for 22 minutes in a road contest would be a cause for concern, but Simmons was able to help hold the fort down while seeing 18 minutes of action.
His final stat line was nothing to shout about – five points on 1 of 4 shooting – but he did hit a big trey to help put a dagger in Illinois' second-half comeback hopes. He also handed out three assists and did not commit a turnover.
Simmons still showed some questionable shot selection, but his presence overall was a positive one in this game and a sign that perhaps he can be trusted to play more down the stretch.