Ohio State had just finished putting together a 66-55 home victory Feb. 27 against the Wolverines, allowing the Buckeyes to keep pace near the top of the Big Ten standings. The home team had been led by the usual scoring suspects – William Buford had a game-high 44 points while Evan Turner added 18 – but Lauderdale had been a greater point of the offensive attack than in previous games.
The junior center tied a career high with 14 points while going 7 of 9 from the floor. That performance made him 90 for 117 (76.9 percent) from the floor this season and 49 for 60 (81.6 percent) at home – both conference-high totals.
But rather than serving as a focal point of the offense, Lauderdale's production both in that game and this season has largely come thanks to the abilities of his team's wings and not the other way around. His shooting percentage would lead the nation, but his average of 3.9 shots per game falls short of the required 5.0 to be included on the list.
"He feeds off the other things that go on," Beilein said after the game. "Our guys are boxing out Lauderdale because DeShawn (Sims) had to give help on Turner so then Buford comes in and gets the rebound. There's all kind of residual stuff that goes on when you have a great player like Evan. Then you have scorers on the outside who can get in the lane. Then Lauderdale, if he didn't get the rebound, Buford got it because you have to pay attention."
The 6-8, 260-pound Lauderdale finished the game with three rebounds, fewest among OSU's starters. His average of 5.2 boards ranks third on the team behind Turner and Buford.
The focal points of the OSU offense are named Turner, Buford, Jon Diebler and David Lighty, each of whom averages at least 12.4 points per game. After missing the first game of the season with a broken hand suffered prior to the start of fall camp, he has finished among the top three OSU scorers six times in 28 games. Two of them came during a six-game stretch during which Turner was out of the lineup with a back injury.
"He knows his role and he does it real well," Beilein said. "He's not out there crying if he doesn't get the ball. He knows if he stays around the rim he's going to get the ball when they miss, and they don't miss a lot."
Lauderdale said he expects to shoot such a high percentage because the majority of his baskets come on dunks. Some of them are on alley-oops, a few of the spectacular variety as he demonstrated against the Wolverines.
On one such basket, Lauderdale snatched a pass that seemed destined for the first row from the air with his right hand and somehow threw it down for a one-handed dunk that brought the crowd at Value City Arena to its feet.
"I tell my teammates just throw it and I'm going to get it," he said. "My teammates usually call me ‘go get it.' Throw the ball anywhere up in the air and I'll go get it."
Turner said the signal for tossing Lauderdale an alley-oop is simply making eye contact.
"He usually doesn't call for the ball so when he does I know he's pretty sure he's going to catch it," he said. "I'm confident he's going to make a great play out of it. You pass it to him and let him do what he does."
The junior also brings plenty to the defensive end of the court. Monday, he was named to the league's all-defensive team after leading the league with an average of 2.2 blocked shots per game.
"I'm not saying I'm not going to be a threat (offensively) because I'm going to be a threat, but defensively I can do some things that our wings can't do," he said earlier this season. "I can affect the game and intimidate doing things that can help the wings out on the defensive end. There's two sides to the court."
After being named the conference's player of the year, Turner described Lauderdale as one of the best defenders he has ever played with.
"He has a really good knack for blocking shots," Turner said. "You feel really comfortable when he's behind you. He's really an enforcer."
An enforcer who knows his role on the team, that is.
"With the team we have, with the four wings I'm playing with I do need to be a presence but offense isn't really a major thing where I need to affect the game," he said. "My hustle and energy and defense are the way I can affect the game. The wings can take care of the offense."