Last year, the Penn State Nittany Lions owned the Buckeyes on the hardwood. Despite the talent differential, Penn State bested Ohio State in both head-to-head contests. With that in mind, the Buckeyes welcomed the Nittany Lions with revenge on their minds. Thanks to the excellent play of D'Angelo Russell, the Buckeyes were able to avenge their losses last year and continue to improve throughout the Big Ten schedule.
Unfortunately, Anthony Lee was a late scratch before the game. Thus, Amir Williams got the start and Buckeye fans were treated with the typical head scratching play we're used to from Williams. That missed dunk late in the first half was particularly comical.
Penn State got out to a painfully slow start as it took the Nittany Lions nearly 7 minutes to find the bottom of the net. Attribute that to solid on ball defending from the Buckeyes. Throughout most of the first half, the Buckeyes led by double digits and were able to impose their will on both ends of the court. In a season in which the upper classmen have largely underwhelmed, Sam Thompson and Shannon Scott played admirably and made their mark on the game early.
Although Penn State found some open shots and sprung to life offensively a bit in the second half, the Buckeyes continued to display their dominance and maintained their healthy lead throughout. Russell struggled with his shot through much of the game, but the rest of the Buckeyes were able to pick him up. Sam Thompson was reliable from behind the arc and set a new personal high in points scored.
By the end of the game, Ohio State was just too much for the NIttany Lions. The Buckeyes cruised to their 19th win of the season and successfully avenged their painful losses to Penn State last year. The Buckeyes now look ahead to their faceoff with Sparty this saturday. However, in the mean time, here's what we learned from the Buckeyes victory tonight:
3 Things We Learned:
1) This was a team effort offensively. Sam Thompson led the team in scoring (on a career high 22 points), but otherwise this was a refreshing team effort early on. While it wasn't a particularly high scoring affair, the Buckeyes moved the ball around well and effectively got everyone involved. Early on in the first half 7 different Buckeyes had already scored. Considering Russell has had to put on the cape and carry this team offensively through much of Big Ten play, an offensive team effort was a pleasant surprise tonight. As Penn State threw the 2-3 zone at the Buckeyes, Ohio State was able to find the seams and soft spots that led to good, open looks.
2) D'Angelo Russell came back down to earth a bit. Thus far this year one thing has become clear: Russell is not of this world. At this point, it's more likely he is Superman's younger brother sent from Krypton to grace Columbus, Ohio and the world at large with his silky smooth style of play. However, Russell's shot just was not falling tonight. His shot selection never seemed questionable, but his accuracy was clearly off. Even as his shot wasn't falling with the regularity he is used to, Russell was able to attack the bucket and get to the line seemingly at will.
Although his accuracy and shooting percentage took a serious dive, Russell was still able to get his points and make his impression felt on the hardwood offensively. Russell was able to persevere through an off night offensively and still helped the team cruise to a solid victory. Nights like this, in which Russell has to work through difficulty and cold streaks from the floor, will help to continue to develop Russell into the future NBA star he is sure to become.
3) Buckeyes displayed their defensive prowess throughout the night. This Buckeye team has struggled with defensive identity much of this year. Beginning with the zone and moving toward more man defense, Ohio State has been working with different schemes and lineups to find what works best for this team. Tonight the defense really seemed to have clicked. Defensive pressure led to turnovers, which in turn led to easy transition buckets for the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes held Penn State to 29.6% shooting in the first half while forcing 9 first half turnovers.
Additionally, there was a bit of a block party early on for the Buckeyes. Keita Bates-Diop, in particular, was able to use his length to bother shooters and protect the rim. Also, DJ Newbill was a point of emphasis for the Buckeyes defensively and Sam Thompson, among others, were ale to essentially lock up the Big Ten's second leading scorer.