Ohio State has been patiently waiting for a breakout performance from their inconsistent, yet talented junior forward David Lighty, and they got it in a big way Tuesday night against Jacksonville University.
With the good came the bad, unfortunately, as Lighty underwent surgery yesterday morning (Thursday) to repair a broken bone in his left foot, per ESPN.com. He is expected to be out anywhere from 6-12 weeks, with the latter ending his season.
Lighty turned in quite the all-around performance against the Dolphins, tying a career high with 21 points while shooting 7-8 from the field and most importantly making 5-7 free throws, much improved from his 48 percent season average from the charity stripe.
Lighty also pulled down seven rebounds, and dished out a season-best four assists, sprinkling in three steals to top off his impressive night.
The news of Lighty’s injury dims a season that has been bright thus far, as the Buckeyes own an unblemished record, 7-0, including résumé-building wins at Miami, vs. Notre Dame on a “neutral court” in Indianapolis, and at home against Butler.
This was all while waiting for the ever-promising, high motor Lighty's game to come together. Lighty was easily the most experienced player on the team in terms of playing time, and his knack for making athletic plays were surely be missed. Lighty also brought tenacious and active defensive efforts on a nightly basis, anchoring a unit that ranks eighth in the country in opponent field goal percentage.
In David Lighty’s absence, Ohio State coach Thad Matta will have to get creative in replacing such a valuable asset.
The most obvious choice would to be to place true freshman William Buford into the lineup at shooting guard while bumping Jon Diebler to small forward and stud sophomore Evan Turner at power forward.
The option of a small lineup presents itself by playing both point guards, Anthony Crater and Jeremie Simmons, at the guard positions, preserving the depth at the forward and center positions.
Seldom used Walter Offutt may now get his chance at valuable playing time, being first off the bench at the wing positions.
Another option that exists is for Matta to temporarily disband his one-in, four-out system by going big with both Dallas Lauderdale and B.J. Mullens playing down low, but this would stretch the frontcourt awfully thin, with Kyle Madsen being relied upon for more meaningful minutes.
The wild card in all of this is Nikola Kecman, a 6’8” JUCO transfer who is currently serving a 12-game suspension for participating on an amateur team that was in the process of transitioning to a professional team. Kecman gives the Buckeyes stability in the frontcourt, as well as a Euro-style big who can step out and hit the three.
Kecman currently has five games remaining on his suspension, pegging his return date as Jan. 6, a Big Ten showdown with Michigan State in East Lansing.
Until then, Ohio State will have to tread lightly, without their heart and soul, David Lighty.