College Basketball Nation: 032110 OhioSt-GeorgiaTech

Balanced Buckeyes break out

March, 21, 2010

Frank VictoresOhio State's Evan Turner had to work for it, but he was effective in the Buckeyes' win over Georgia Tech.
MILWAUKEE -- For 20 minutes, Ohio State looked decidedly average. Then the Buckeyes decided to run.

It was that style that separated Thad Matta's squad from a physical Georgia Tech team in a 75-66 win. With No. 1 Kansas conspicuously out of the way, the victory carried the top-seeded team left in the Midwest into a Sweet Sixteen match up with No. 6-seed Tennessee.

Ohio State had problems with Georgia Tech's defense in the first half. The Jackets were physical, making Evan Turner work for every inbounds pass and pressing him the length of the floor. By the time OSU got the ball into the half court offense, Turner was effective but not efficient, making six of his 15 shots. The rest of the Buckeyes were stagnant and off-kilter.

Here's a blessing for balance, then: When Ohio State returned from its halftime break, the Buckeyes took a different approach. They didn't stall in the halfcourt -- they went right at the Jackets, right to the bucket, and right to a win.

"We were attacking," Turner said. "Once we got into the backcourt, we attacked."

That change in mindset led to an 18-6 run in the first seven minutes of the first half that extended Ohio State's lead to 46-32. Rather than settling for challenged jump shots, Ohio State led off the half with three dunks and several layups. Then Buckeyes guard Jon Diebler found his stroke, and not even an impressive late run by Georgia Tech was enough to keep the Buckeyes from coasting to the second weekend of NCAA tournament play.

"Evan, he kind of kept us in the game with his aggressiveness," Diebler said. "And that's why I think we're such a dangerous team. We're a very good basketball team, because he is going to draw so much attention and that just leaves for some easy shots for us."

This was always the game the Buckeyes needed to play against a slow, physical team like the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech didn't do itself any favors -- no pun intended, promise -- by getting its big men Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors into so much foul trouble. Lawal and Favors played a combined 45 minutes in the game, and neither player ever established himself on either end of the ball.

"[It was a] big difference," Matta said when asked about a Favors- and Lawal-less Georgia Tech team. "Because I think that going into the game we were consumed with those two and what they were capable of doing. ... Watching the Oklahoma State game, they seemed engrossed in pounding the ball inside. We knew they were going to try to do that to us today.

"When they're not on the floor, they're definitely, definitely a different basketball team."

MILWAUKEE -- Some quick halftime thoughts from a relatively ugly first half in Milwaukee:

  • Georgia Tech hasn't quite dominated in the post the way it should. Gani Lawal had a good half, but counterpart Derrick Favors has been relatively invisible. More drastic is the Yellow Jackets' paucity of offensive rebounds -- Georgia Tech didn't grab a single offensive rebound until there were about four minutes left, and even that rebound was quickly slapped away by Ohio State's defense. Thus far, the combination of Dallas Lauderdale and OSU's athletic guards have been enough to keep the Jackets away from the basket.
  • [+] EnlargeEvan Turner
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesOhio State's Evan Turner led all scorers with 16 first-half points.
  • Some of that might have to do with OSU's defense, which starts as a 1-3-1 full-court trap and then switches either to a half-court zone or into man-to-man, based on the calls relayed by OSU's bench to Turner, who then signals the defense with a hand signal. The half-court zone has been effective because it places a defender on the front and help sides of Lawal, making it difficult for him to get good catches in the post. It's also led to some open jumpers for Georgia Tech.
  • Not that it's mattered -- both teams shot putrid percentages in the first half, especially from beyond the arc. Ohio State made just two of its 11 3s; Georgia Tech went 2-for-8. Georgia Tech has done a good job making things difficult for the Buckeyes' shooters. (Jon Diebler especially has felt pressure coming off high screens.) But there have been plenty of open looks, too. OSU just isn't hitting them.
  • As I hinted above, this has not been a pretty game. Obviously, the shooting hasn't been great, but we've also had a combined 21 turnovers. Georgia Tech has 12 of them, but still, you have to think the Jackets like this level of ugliness.
  • In obligatory Evan Turner Watch news, Turner has played better much than his ugly first-round performance, scoring 16 points and adding three steals, two rebounds and two assists. Not to nitpick, but Turner hasn't been his typically efficient self today: Those 16 points came on 6-of-15 shooting, and he has just as many turnovers as assists. So far in this tournament, Turner has been an ineffective shooter; he's at his best when he's driving to the rim, using his perfect footwork, and scoring layups.
  • Is it just me, but when Ohio State fans do their famous "O-H-I-O" chant, are the O's not completely indistinguishable from the I's? I guess the message still comes across. But it is funny to sit and pretend the Buckeyes' backers are chanting I-H-I-I. (OK, maybe it is just me.)