I can't imagine too many teams opening an 18-game conference schedule by dropping three of their first four and then finding a way to rattle off wins in 13 of their 14 remaining league games to capture a title. Even more amazing is the fact that the one loss came by three points to a team that would have been a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if not for a crippling late-season injury.
This is the Buckeye team we all thought we had a chance to watch when Evan Turner opted to return for his junior season. This team is a nightmare for opponents from a matchup standpoint, as Illinois head coach Bruce Weber was the latest coach to admit.
The Illini were focused on keeping Turner from beating them, and by and large they were successful. Turner still had 16 points, 12 rebounds and five assists, but several of his shots were forced and he wore a look of frustration throughout much of the game.
But tonight, that meant a trio of teammates could hurt OSU's opponent. Weber admitted to having no answer for a player like Lighty who can slash to the basket from his power forward spot. In trying to contain that, it left Jon Diebler and William Buford open.
All Diebler did was hit on a season-high seven treys after entering the game 3 for his last 17. All Buford did was go 9 for 11 from the charity stripe to balance out the fact that he was 4 for 12 from the field and finish as the second-leading scorer with 17 points.
It was a game in which junior center Dallas Lauderdale was essentially a non-factor – he finished with five rebounds and two points while missing all four of his foul shots – but it did not hurt the Buckeyes one bit.
When OSU's four wings are playing the way they did against Illinois, good things happen for the Buckeyes. I'm not sure I'd want to be coaching a team that had to devise a way to stop them in the tournament.
The only question is how they overcome a night of foul troubles – a factor that has not significantly impacted them yet this season.
I think … that although it was nice to see P.J. Hill in the lineup again, something head coach Thad Matta said on his radio show bears repeating.
In discussing the 6-1 guard, Matta pointed out that the Buckeyes switch on screens while playing defense. Any team worth its salt would realize that it could quickly get Hill matched up with a post player who has several inches and plenty of pounds on the Buckeye.
That is a situation OSU never faced the last two seasons thanks to the zone that fans decried for most of the time. In the current defensive scheme, Hill is simply too small to play.
The same went for Jeremie Simmons.
I think … that I am not going to comment on the officiating on both ends of the court. Enough said.
I think … that some credit has to be given to Diebler here. For him to bounce back from some rough shooting nights in recent games is a testament to his mental fortitude.
Diebler is a shooter. He will have nights when he can't miss and nights where he can't throw it into the ocean. He's also now five short of holding the OSU record for most makes in a career, so he's obviously doing something right.