Buckeye's Rebound From Three Game Skid

Rob WunschCorrespondent IJanuary 25, 2008

The Buckeyes recently returned home from a grueling three game road swing.

The road trip started with a tough game against Purdue that got away from Ohio State in the second half. OSU enjoyed a seven point lead at the half and was in position to win a league game on the road to the surprising Boilermakers.

But Purdue started the second half on fire half and went on an 8-0 run to take the lead. Jon Diebler and David Lighty went a combined 2-19 and struggled on the offensive end the entire game. A spirited effort at the end came up short and the Boilermakers came away with a 75-68 win.

Three days later the Buckeyes arrived in East Lansing to an angry MSU squad that only scored 39 points in a 43-39 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City. MSU jumped out early on the Buckeyes and enjoyed a 20 point lead most of the first half. With only three minutes to go in the half the Buckeyes trailed by 21 points. To their credit, OSU did not give up, however moral victories do not show up in the Win/loss column.

Most Buckeye fans, including myself, did not give the team much of a chance on the third leg of their road trip. Tennessee was out to avenge the two losses last season, especially the loss in San Antonio. Tennessee jumped out to an early lead mainly because of the Buckeyes 30 percent shooting in the first half.

In the second half the Buckeyes jumped out to a 46–39 lead and seemed to be gaining control of the game and the crowd. But Tennessee stormed back to take a 13 point lead. Again, OSU fought back and had two opportunities to tie the game, but both three point attempts by Jon Diebler were off the mark. It was another moral victory for the Buckeyes in the 74–69 loss to Tennessee. 

The Buckeyes finally got a much needed win against the Illini in Columbus Tuesday night. At the start of the game I noticed Shaun Pruitt was not in the starting lineup. I couldn’t find him on the bench either. Illini coach Bruce Weber commented after the game that it was a team matter and really didn’t go into any details.

Illinois has struggled all season to find themselves and Tuesday night was no different. Ohio State led at the half 33–23 behind the play of Evan Turner and David Lighty. Turner continues to get more minutes and his confidence is growing every game. Lighty has struggled of late, but played under control on the offensive and defensive end. The two were a combined 11–18 from the field and shot 4-7 from three point land.

The Buckeyes led late in the second half by 15 points. P.J. Hill came in for Butler and the wheels almost came off. The Buckeyes survived a late rally by Illinois when Lighty came down with an offensive rebound on a Kosta Koufos miss at the free throw line. Lighty made both free throws to put an end to the Illini comeback.

Ohio State came away with a much needed 64–58 win. The Buckeyes next game is against Minnesota on Saturday night in Columbus.

A couple of things concern me about the young Buckeyes at this point in the season.

They gave up 17 offensive rebounds against Illinois. Illinois out-hustled the Buckeyes most of the night and if they shot a little better than their 35 percent clip, they would have upset the Buckeyes at home.

OSU's leading rebounder was Jamar Butler with seven boards, while the two trees down low only had eight boards combined. After Othello Hunter’s career game against Tennessee I expected a little more from him. Hunter needs to dominate the paint like he did against Tennessee every game. He is a senior and needs to be more consistent. If this team is going to make the tournament Othello needs to step up and help Jamar lead this team.

The second thing that concerns me, and really has been a problem for the Buckeyes the entire year, is their depth at point guard. I like P.J. Hill’s energy, but at this point in the season he still is not ready for D-1 basketball.

I think Thad Matta is over on the sidelines just trying to steal minutes when P.J. is inserted in the lineup. It may be time to try and rotate Jon Diebler in at point just for four or five minutes a game to give Jamar a break. He is getting hounded every game and it is a lot to ask for him to finish off games at the end when he plays 38–40 minutes a game with defenders all over his back. Maybe giving Jon a role on the team that doesn’t involve hitting three-point shots can get his confidence back.

I always like to finish on a positive note...How about the play of Evan Turner?

During the Illinois game you could see the confidence in his play. He was driving to the hoop with a purpose and there was no hesitation in his jump shot. I still would like to see him help out rebounding on the defensive end a little more. I am sure the coaches will comment that he only had two rebounds in 34 minutes of play.

With that said I am thrilled by his play and the energy he brings to this Buckeye team.