As I have looked at this Buckeye team, I kept wondering why no one had been successful at attacking them in the post. Some teams had enjoyed limited success doing it, but no team had beaten OSU this season solely on the basis of scoring near the basket.
Then Tennessee scored 50 points in the paint led by 22 from forward Wayne Chism. Heading into the game, the concern was that Chism's propensity to shoot from behind the arc could lead to him stretching the OSU defense. Three of his 16 attempts were from three-point range.
The rest came on wide-open layups and put-backs. The Volunteers came up with 20 offensive rebounds, keeping plenty of possessions alive.
In the first half, David Lighty was in foul trouble and spent most of the stanza on the bench. Dallas Lauderdale looked good early on but faded for much of the game, and Kyle Madsen was out of his league from a physicality standpoint.
Lighty said the early foul calls might have had an impact on his mentally ability to play defense in the second half.
To be totally honest, I can't say I exactly know why the Volunteers were so able to get wide-open drives to the basket. All I know is that they did, over and over again, and the Buckeyes had no answers.
Lighty in early foul trouble, a mismatch in the post and shots not falling from behind the arc. Given those scenarios, an OSU victory this season has been far-fetched at best.
I think … that I would have given Jeremie Simmons at least a look in the second half, but I think I know why head coach Thad Matta did not.
In relief of Lighty, Simmons knocked down three of four three-point attempts while playing 14 minutes in the first half. For the game, Buckeyes not named Evan Turner combined to go 4 for 19 (21.1 percent) from behind the arc. The most glaring performance came from Jon Diebler, who was 1 for 7 after his hot shooting in the first two games helped propel the Buckeyes into the Sweet 16.
Why not give Simmons a shot in the second half? I think it had to do with defense. When he was on the court, Matta felt he could no longer rely on the zone that had frustrated Tennessee in the early going. Matched up against a man-to-man defense, the Vols immediately began driving at Simmons.
As shots continued to not fall in the second half, Simmons stayed on the bench as Tennessee continued to pick apart the OSU defense. The argument could certainly be made that Simmons would have been no worse than the guys who were on the court, but in Matta's mind that was not true.
Matta had to know that this was going to be a nip-and-tuck game until the end. Realizing that, he must have felt that the likes of Diebler and William Buford had a better chance of coming up with the occasional stop than did Simmons.
Simmons told me after the game that he did not ask why he was never re-inserted and said he was ready to go in. Matta said he considered it but decided against it.
But would it have been worth it to try him for a minute or to see if he could hit another three-pointer when his teammates were missing theirs? Absolutely, but there's a reason I'm sitting behind a keyboard and not on the sidelines.
I think … that although I had decided that fatigue would no longer be a factor for this year's team, I can't help but wonder if the Buckeyes tired in the second half.
I felt that fatigue would have set in by now, and that we would not be wondering about OSU's legs with a clear path to the Final Four in sight. After the game, the players said the usual things about not being tired and Matta said he did not feel the Buckeyes ran out of gas.
Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl begged to differ, and there are certainly stats to back up his case. OSU shot 32.3 percent in the second half after going for 55.6 percent in the first half, and the Vols had more unabated drives to the basket than any team I've seen the Buckeyes face this season.
I'm not going to say that OSU's legs finally gave out, but the evidence certainly points in that direction.
I think … that although Turner is much more likely to go to the NBA than he is to stay at home, but I think the way this loss went down helps OSU's chances of keeping him.
This was not a loss to a loaded Kansas team on the doorstep of the Final Four. This was not a defeat at the hands of a powerhouse team that was able to just impose its will on the Buckeyes.
This was a game that the Buckeyes could have won, and Turner had the final chances to pull it out.
I'm not saying that he's coming back. I'm saying that if he was 100 percent gone before the game tipped off, he might be 99.8 percent gone now.
I think … that this was the most enjoyable OSU team to cover in my tenure on the beat. In my experience in dealing with these guys, there really were no egos in that locker room. This truly seemed to be a team in every sense of the word, and the fun that the Buckeyes had from playing with each other spilled over into their dealings with the media.
I just wanted to get that out there.