"When you walk in...and have that Buckeye Block O on your chest, it's like walking in with a Louisville Slugger."
—Fran Fraschilla, ESPN
The Ohio State Buckeyes walked into the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee and beat the Florida St. Seminoles 58-44 in a hard-nosed, defensive battle. Don't let the naysayers fool you, there was never any doubt at who was going to win this basketball game.
The Buckeyes didn't shoot particularly well during the game (32 percent overall, 20 percent from behind the arc), but were in control from the outset, jumping to a 7-0 lead, and never looking back. Despite the Buckeyes struggles shooting the ball, they still managed to hit big shots in big situations. That, combined with tenacious defense, and a scrappy, workmanlike approach to the game, led the Buckeyes to another key victory.
The Key Points:
The Buckeyes Rebounding: This team can flat out get after the basketball, in particular, on the offensive side of the ball. They absolutely dominated the Seminoles on the offensive glass, leading 17-7 overall in the game.
They outrebounded the 'Noles 39-29 overall. The Buckeyes aren't particularly big, but they all have high motors and tend to attack the basket after shots, instead of fading back to the defensive side of the court. David Lighty, William Buford and DeShaun Thomas all had five boards each, with Aaron Craft throwing in four of his own.
Jared Sullinger: Sullinger really is an interesting player. At times, he completely dominated the middle on both ends of the court, and looked every bit the National Player of the Year. He scored 11 points to go with 13 rebounds, and tallied his third double-double of the year. He's an extremely smart basketball player, and was able to find ways around Chris Singleton, the reigning ACC defensive player of the year, through much of the game.
Still, Singleton was able to make Sullinger disappear for a few minutes in the second half. It was during this time that Florida St. was able to make a nice run that got the Seminoles within seven points. Still, Sullinger played 36 minutes, and clearly was the best player on the court. He'll give the Buckeyes the advantage in many "ugly" games before it's all over.
David Lighty: Lighty really is the glue of this team. What makes him better than most is his ability to shoot from the outside, and drive to the basket when his shot is off. He's everywhere and can defend anyone. Lighty had 10 points, seven rebounds, two blocks, a steal and two assists.
Jon Diebler: Diebler played all 40 minutes of the game, and really showcased just how good he really can be. We all know Diebler can shoot the ball, but there's more to his game than meets the eye.
Diebler's shot was off yesterday, although the big guard never stopped shooting. He's got a short memory, and that will suit him well on this team. Just the fact that he shoots unclogs the inside, because you never know when he's going to find the range. He never really did last night, but still managed 12 points, the five boards, an assist and four steals.
Deshaun Thomas: Thomas was named the Big Ten Freshman of the week prior to the game, and he began the game off the bench as though he were going for Big Ten player of the week. In his eight minutes in the first half, he scored four points with five boards, with two steals.
He can handle the ball, and can shoot equally well, and he's going to be a special player when his time in Columbus is done. Thomas fell awkwardly on his back in the first half, and didn't return to the game. Matta stated that Thomas could have played, but it was a coach's decision not to put him back in.
The guards, or, uh, the forwards or, the...well, guard/forwards? Do you want to talk about match-up problems? William Buford, Deshaun Thomas, David Lighty and Jon Diebler all have a similar skill set.
They can all shoot the ball, drive to the basket and most importantly, handle the ball. The key to these guys is that they all have the ability to defend and interchange. This is a nasty group that should provide match-up problems galore as the season progresses.
You add the feisty, quick Aaron Craft into the equation and this unit goes up another notch. They will never be easy to press, and will remain a multi-dimensional for the Big Ten.
This Buckeye team really is turning into an interesting combination of offense, defense and rebounding, in this early portion of the season. Against the scrappy, defensive-minded Seminoles, the Buckeye never found their offensive groove.
Still, while the offense continued to search for any sort of consistency, they continued to do the things that national title contenders do. They fought for balls, attacked the glass and played tight, man-to-man defense.
While this team is loaded with regal blue-chippers, they aren't afraid to get nasty, and play the down-and-dirty blue collar basketball that wins games. This is a high profile team that plays with a low profile tenacity, and it just might be the right mix to do big things in both the Big Ten and tournament time.
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