A Tale of Two Halves

The first half was a disaster. The second half had its disastrous moments too, but it showed potential.

The Ohio State men’s basketball team lost at Louisville last night 64-55 as part of the established ACC/Big Ten Challenge late last night. After the first evening of games, the Big Ten is dominating the competition 6-2.

Yes, the Big Ten is still is a pretty good/awesome conference.

To say the first 20 minutes were difficult to watch as a Buckeye fan would be accurate. It looked like most everything, but basketball. Shooting awareness and concentration was near zero and Ohio State’s zone defense led to the zoning out of its defenders, which created open layups and three-point shots by the Cardinals. Conventional wisdom would typically dictate a 35-18 lead for Louisville, ranked #5 in America (hmm?) a comfortable second half and eventual victory.

It was anything but that.

After both teams played a sloppy first half, each had their moments again and again (and again) in the fast-paced second half. However, the difference was an energized and determined Buckeyes defense that caused turnover after turnover and fought off rebound after rebound to cut the deficit to as low as 5 points late in the game. Unfortunately for Thad Matta’s guys, missed open shots, a three pointer and free throws were the final bricks (ironic, right?) in the wall preventing a magnificently improbable come-from-behind win on the road.

There were a few positive moments from the game for Ohio State, but mostly, it was negative. The Ohio State team is old and young with 5 seniors and 5 freshman and a couple sophomores. This team just experienced its first true challenge against a quick, physical and talented opponent in a hostile environment on the road. OSU’s players were sloppy, disorganized, slow, unaware of their surroundings/tall shot blockers and not competent in running a set offensive or defensive system…until the second half. The defensive pressure was quintessential Thad Matta pressure, they countered well off of turnovers and they started to make some shots. The shooting still needs vast improvement, but it got better as the game went on. The intensity was undeniably impressive. Most of the starry-eyed freshman had their moments, but nothing spectacular. And then, whoa, there was the free throw line. Let me put it this way: free throws clearly aren’t free.

This may read as a harsh criticism of the Buckeyes. Good. They needed it for their own good.

Last night’s challenge was not against an elite high school basketball academy or the Sacred Heart Pioneers. The Louisville Cardinals were a difficult opponent and emblematic of what they’ll face throughout the Big Ten season (in some form or another), as well as in March Madness, if they make it. Matta does have that minimum 20-win season on his resume…But Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams and D’Angelo Russell (especially Russell) need to understand team basketball, relentless concentration and the highly-talented world of college hoops. The game moves more quickly than high school and if they keep running and shooting like it’s only about them, then that first half will be on an exhausting repeat like Groundhog Day all season long. Seniors Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson will also need to add consistency to their existing basketball arsenals. But this Ohio State team needed that ass whooping last night to wake them up to the realization of how top teams play and the virtues of hard work (ie – the necessary second half defense to avoid complete embarrassment). The current dynamics of this team include exciting flashes of raw talent, experienced guidance and athleticism and the yet-to-be-determined end result.

At bare minimum, Ohio State should first strive to be a hard-working team with speed, an overwhelming defense, consistent offensive and an unknown potential no team wants to risk facing if and when that single game elimination scenario comes up/is earned come March. That is a realistically attainable goal for this squad because the season has just barely begun. There’s plenty of time.

After that, anything is possible. For at least 40 minutes, the Buckeyes have now seen, experienced and felt what happens when they play lost. As strange as it sounds, viewers found out more about Ohio State than Louisville last night. Ohio State, however clumsily, nearly pulled off an impossible comeback with a warrior’s heart.

Hopefully, The Ohio State Buckeyes continue to play like they did in the second half, yet never forget that first half.

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Posted on December 3, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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