Cleaning The Glass: Penn State Road Edition

Ohio State managed to stay in the hunt for a Big Ten championship with an eight-point victory Wednesday night at Penn State. BuckeyeSports.com men's basketball beat writer offers his take on the team's defensive performance, the play of Dallas Lauderdale, William Buford's "message" to the crowd and more in this edition of "Cleaning The Glass."

I think … that although the important thing for No. 9 Ohio State is that it emerged with a victory against lowly Penn State, but that does not mean there was nothing to be concerned about in the victory.

After the game, head coach Thad Matta said he did not like his team's defensive approach – a fact with which I could not agree more. The Buckeyes looked aggressive at times, but at other times appeared disinterested in guarding the players in the differently colored jerseys.

When you have a team trailing by 17 points with less than 10 minutes left in the game, that is when you step on the throat and maintain the lead. Instead, this OSU team let the Nittany Lions can three straight treys in less than 70 seconds to cut the deficit in half. Suddenly, it was a game.

You know what happened next. PSU cut it to two before junior guard Evan Turner again saved the day and scored the team's next eight points to help fight off the upset attempt.

This is not the first time that a double-digit, second-half lead has either evaporated completely or come perilously close to doing so. West Virginia and Michigan State come to mind, but those are at least two much better teams than PSU.

I can't help but think that is how you will see the Buckeyes bow out in the NCAA Tournament: after opening up a big first-half lead that carries over into the second half, some team that can match their speed and athleticism mounts a comeback that, for once, Turner can't answer.

Then again, OSU is now 20-0 when leading with five minutes left this season, so maybe they just really, really wait until the end to turn it on.

I think … that we got a good look at why Jeremie Simmons has not been able to carve out a role on this team. I grant that there are two ways to look at his performance against the Nittany Lions: either he was off because he hasn't played much, or he hasn't played much because he's been off.

At this point, I'm inclined to believe the latter. His shooting headed to the tank once Turner went down with the back injury and a bigger role was thrust on Simmons' shoulders, and he never quite got back into the flow of things.

Without his ability to score, Simmons is basically a non-entity in the game plan Matta adheres to. The reason the Buckeyes have been so successful is because of the ability of guys such as Turner, Jon Diebler, William Buford and David Lighty to use their length to both pressure opposing guards on defense and to be able to see over defenders on offense.

Simmons is unable to do either. He simply does not fit into the equation unless a player like Buford is in foul trouble. The same goes for P.J. Hill, although I do think he has some defensive upside in limited doses.

I think … that Dallas Lauderdale gets my praise for unsung hero of the game. The big fella had just four points but came up with 10 rebounds. I can't count how many times I thought to myself, "Wow, that was another big rebound from Lauderdale."

He seems to get it now. When the ball is in the air, he's starting to truly believe that it's his ball and no one else's. Also, he's added a few spin moves on the post that have helped make him more than simply a threat to dunk the basketball.

I like where his game is headed.

I think … that Buford will receive some sort of punishment for his actions after he fouled out of the game with 30.3 seconds remaining. With the fans jeering him all the way to the bench, a camera clearly showed Buford grab his crotch and point to the scoreboard as he sat down.

A frustrating end to a frustrating night to be sure for Buford, who had 10 points in the first half but was a non-factor in the final 20 minutes, but not the type of class Matta likes to see from his players. With Michigan coming into Value City Arena on Saturday, I'll be curious to see if he faces any sort of in-game punishment.


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