Monday, January 09, 2006

An Actual Fun-to-watch game

The perfectionist in me admits that shouldn't have been so close, but the fan in me loved watching the IU-OSU game. It wasn’t impressive in margin of victory, and at times the team looked downright awful as they missed shots and OSU beat them down the floor to get up by 17. But make no mistake, this was a BIG win.

Ohio State, give ‘em props, came in unconcerned, ran a good offense, and shot amazingly for about 30 minutes. They look as good as anyone in the Big Ten. And mark it up to Thad Matta, who’s been a great coach everywhere he’s gone, and continues today having OSU on the rise after only two years. The Buckeyes can be mad on losing the game on a call away from the ball, but that call actually gave OSU a chance to win, as they'd already hit a number of fade-away threes with a defender in their face that afternoon, and would have a chance to do it again for the win. And even if the call isn't made, IU either takes more time off the clock and scores for the same result, or the game goes to OT, where Dials probably picks up his fifth and IU still wins. So I think an early whistle was one of the best things that could've happened to OSU. But for the sole reason even having Dials in the game at the end, I don't think Buckeye fans have any reason to bitch.

Illinois, Michigan State, Indiana, and OSU ought to be at the top of the standings come the end of the year and this was IU’s only game against the Buckeyes. If IU is tied in the standings, this win could be a tiebreaker for seeding in the Big 10 tourney.

Important lesson learned; when called for your fifth foul on the road, bitch extremely loud like you’re about lose your mind and pop a cap in someone’s ass, like Terrance Dials did, with about 5 1/2 minutes left in the game. He went on to almost singlehandly to match IU shot for shot down the stretch. If he doesn't foul out there, I have a hard time seeing OSU staying with the Hoosiers.

Game ball to Marshall Strickland, who’s solid defense of Jekel Foster, sharpshooting from 3 and from the free-throw line, was instrumental in getting IU the win. But it was the big plays down the stretch that turned this from a probable loss or overtime game into a win for the Hoosiers. First, the tie-up on the rebound got IU possession for the last shot. His screen and subsequent charge drawn that fouled out Dials assured IU a win in OT if it went that far. And then the pick and smart dish of the ball with time expiring sealed the win. In addition to 15 points, he also made little plays, like the diving out of bounds pass to Vaden who then assisted on the fast-break Wilmont 3 to cut into the OSU lead in the first half. I think Marshall also got a tie-up earlier in the second-half that switched the possession arrow back to IU's favor.

Tip o’ the hat to Killingsworth, for getting the Ohio State frontline in foul trouble and making sure that the two principal game-ending weapons for the Buckeyes weren’t on the floor at the end of the game. 4 blocks is pretty nice to go along with 26 points. Steve Straiger explains why Killer is also a problem for IU here.

Tip o’ the hat to Rod Wilmont, who’s energy and fearless shooting helped get the lead down from insurmountable in the first half to a mere 8 point defecit at halftime.

Tip o’ the hat to the Lewis Monroe, who showed everyone what he is capable of offensively, after ducking opportunities in the Duke game, here drained a three at the end of the shot clock, attacked the lane for a lay-up, had a scintillating behind-the-back dish to Killer, and then drilled a three in the defender’s eye, off the bounce. I’d been waiting all year to see some offense from the point guard, and there it was finally.

No game ball, but a tip to Robert Vaden, who didn’t have a MVP performance he had been having for the last 3 games, but his ability to body guys down low and also keep guards from penetrating, played havoc with OSU’s pick-and-roll.

Davis seems to be going with a "seven plus two" rotation, the 1-4 set Killingsworth with Vaden, Strickland, Monroe, with Ratliff and Wilmont splitting time, and DJ White playing bench minutes. The plus two is Ben Allen and Allen Calloway seeing spot time for the center and point, respectively. It seems to be working, but I would really like to see Big Ben get a little more leeway in playing, in big games he gets yanked after his first mistake.

In other Big Ten action thus far, Illinois thumped Michigan State before rolling over to Iowa, Michigan State then starts 0-2 by getting blown out at Wisconsin.

My observations on the Big Ten race:

If Illinois wins, it will be because Indiana and Michigan State can’t win on the road. Dee Brown is a good guard and Bruce Weber a good coach, and the defense is really good, but if you can’t get shots, you aren’t a frontrunner for anything.

Michigan State needs to pick it up. It’s not so much because that they got two losses on the road, but that they got hammered at Wisconsin. They’ll be hosting IU on Wednesday, and they'll be mad, which is not what Davis wanted to see.

Indiana may have what has been in unfortunately typical hard time with consistency. Even if they win all of their home games, which may well not happen, they haven’t played like a team that’s going to win big games on the road.

Ohio State’s for real. I didn’t believe their 11-0 start, but they looked good against IU. I don’t like some of the shot selection, but when Dials is in the game, they’re really tough.

Wisconsin’s going to have some big wins, and some surprising losses, I think. Bo Ryan can coach, but I think they'll have problems away from home.

Iowa goes as Horner goes. When he's healthy and shooting well, the Hawkeyes are tough. But Horner's shooting is vital to this squad's success.

Michigan picks up a win over Purdue, but other than rebounding, this is not a tough team. And if they nose-dive as usual late in the season, it might be ugly.

Northwestern nice start, but beating Minnesota on the road speaks more to the weakness of Minnesota rather than the strength of NU as a frontrunner.

Minnesota is not last year’s squad, despite retaining Vince Grier. They won't be the worst team in the Big Ten, but I am guessing the conference is too tough for the Gophers to compete for a NCAA spot.

Penn State is getting better, but there's just not B10 quality talent here.

Purdue lost starter Nate Minnoy, and will have trouble winning more than 2 conference games, I’m guessing. I mean, I am no fan of Purdue, but what Matt Painter is going through this season is ridiculous!

I'll be posting a c-ball top 25 as Ben suggests soon.


Post a Comment

<< Home