Created on Saturday, 09 February 2013 Written by NATE SMITH
Fitting that on a night when the team donned a scarlet third jersey with “Buckeyes” scrawled across the back instead of an individual’s last name, Ohio State’s men’s basketball turned in its most complete, well-rounded performance of the 2012-2013 season.
Yeah, but, Tuesday was still another loss in a big road game — this time to arch-rival Michigan — 76-74 in overtime.
Yeah, but, the result could’ve been different had the zebras whistled an obvious foul after Aaron Craft was hogtied at the rim at the end of overtime.
Yeah, but, don’t you think the Wolverines were saying fundamentally the same thing after Trey Burke’s 3-pointer rimmed in and out in the waning seconds of Ohio State’s Jan. 13 victory in Columbus — the team’s only real, notable victory of the season?
Yeah, but, Ohio State grossly outplayed its rival in different stretches Tuesday night. The Buckeyes had four guys score in double figures, including 16 points off the bench from emerging sophomore LaQuinton Ross, who posted 23 seriously valuable minutes.
Yeah, but, every time it looked like Ohio State might perhaps build its lead to double digits Michigan answered with a huge, momentum-sapping trifecta. They hit on 14-of-24 3s in the game, including six 3-point baskets from Tim Hardaway Jr.
Face it, the Buckeyes don’t have half the playmakers Michigan does.
Yeah, but, the Wolverines were forced into those 3-point tries by a tenacious Buckeye defense unwilling to yield anything inside. Another sophomore standout, center Amir Williams, recorded four blocks and mustered nine points as he continues to grow into his role as a Ken Johnson-circa 1999 force in the paint.
Yeah, but, they managed to squander an eight-point second half lead, emblematic of a team that has struggled down the stretch all season, even in games it has eventually won.
Yeah, but, in building that eight-point advantage the Bucks outscored Michigan 17-10 in the first seven minutes of the second half, demonstrating some of the best half court offense we’ve seen from this team all year long.
Yeah, but, that execution in the half court was entirely non-existent down the stretch, and especially in overtime.
The Buckeyes managed only one field goal in the extra stanza, recording as many misses and turnovers (two a piece) as points, and the conference’s leading scorer, Deshaun Thomas, didn’t get a single shot.
Yeah, but, our boys were totally gassed by the time overtime rolled around.
Yeah, but, championship teams find ways to win those kinds of big games, especially on the road.
That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you all along: This Ohio State team, while talented and loaded with potential, simply doesn’t have the horses to sustain a championship run this season.
Yeah, but, don’t mistake college basketball for college football. A college hoops campaign is a marathon, not a sprint and the most important trait for a championship-caliber team to possess is the capacity to improve as the seasons drags on.
The Buckeyes would’ve beaten Michigan Tuesday on a neutral floor. I believe, given how well they played, they would’ve beaten any team on a neutral floor.
Watching Hardaway Jr. can six-of- nine 3s reminded me a little bit of the 2011 Ohio State team riding Jon Diebler’s hot outside shooting to a top tournament seed, and then watching horrified when he couldn’t find his shot in an eventual Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky.
Yeah, but, their inconsistency has already cost them a shot at a Big 10 championship this season. Indiana, Michigan or even Michigan State are in a far better position to win the conference.
Yeah, but, just Thursday the Hoosiers lost to Illinois, their second conference loss this season. The Buckeyes play Indiana Sunday — at home — and with a victory can climb right back into the thick of things in the Big 10.
Indiana’s loss marked the fifth straight week the AP number 1 team was knocked off. There is no dominant team in college basketball this year, and parity is the norm.
More importantly, the championship the Buckeyes undoubtedly care most about won’t be determined for another six weeks, and with this club already trending upward, I’d say they have just as good of a chance to win it all as anyone else.