Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Live Blog: Ohio State at North Carolina

9:25 PM:
Ohio State - 26
UNC - 19

At the first commercial break of the game, I'm left in total surprise at the way the Buckeyes are coming out. The whole team really seems to be running on all cylinders, as they are getting off to an uncharacteristically fast start. Watching Mike Conley, there's no doubt in my mind that by season's end he will be considered one of the top point guards in the entire nation. Ron Lewis is slashing to the hoop better than he has all season, and that's really what we need out of him the most. He's been trying to take on the scoring load this season by establishing a three point shot, and although he's been good from beyond the arc, he is most effective when he gets the ball on the perimeter and drives to the hoop. Butler, Conley, Cook, and even Harris can handle the load from 3 point. I don't mind Lewis taking the occasional long-range shot. He is, after all, our top offensive option. I just think he can do a little bit better when deciding between pulling up for the jumper and attacking the hoop.

One thing to worry about at this point is that with the pace the Buckeyes are at right now, that they get tired as the game wears on. The team lacks a lot of depth, especially down low, so fatigue and foul trouble could be issues later on (UNC is still getting in the paint at will at this point).

9:39 PM
Ohio State - 33
UNC - 25

These kids are not freshmen...

Halftime
Ohio State - 48
North Carolina - 44

Although Ohio State still holds a multiple-possession advantage, you wouldn't know it by the way the momentum has swung since my last update. After that point, Conley was given a rest and the team switched to a zone defense. Both decisions proved near-fatal. North Carolina had no trouble finding the obvious holes in the zone. The announcers mentioned that Ohio State had run only seven possessions all season long, and had allowed 12 points. Now I know that much of the team was in serious foul trouble, but I would be surprised if the Buckeyes didn't come out in man-to-man to start the second half. When you're on the road against the #6 team in the nation, it's not normally a good idea to experiment with things that don't work. As the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," well, the man-to-man was working fine, with the exception of a few foul calls.

When Conley left the game, the offense looked totally lost. Oddly enough, there was only one freshman on the court at the time (Lighty), and the rest were all upperclassmen, and everything was going wrong. There was a lot of standing around, and the passes being made were absolutely horrendous. When decent passes were made, they were dropped and stolen. Conley came back for one possession, and the offense looked like it's old self, but he got called for a charge, and was forced to sit for the rest of the half.

All-in-all, I think Matta could have handled the rotations of the players and the defensive selections better in the first half, but I understand that it's a difficult thing to do when there are only eight scholarship players available, and half of them had two fouls. The second half should start out much like the first half did, and if we're ever put in a situation where there are four upperclassmen on the court again, I doubt they'll play as lackadaisical as they did in the first half.

10:43 PM
Ohio State - 68
UNC - 70

Ivan Harris is really an interesting specimen. He was a highly touted prospect out of High School, playing his ball with Carmelo Anthony at the factory known as Oak Hill Academy. However, he has been a bit of a disappointment in his collegiate career. I'm not sure if he's just uncomfortable in the system, or he's not getting the looks, or he's just got one heck of an On-Off switch. Whatever it is, he's hit three three pointers in a row and is really finding his niche today.

I don't know what the deal is with the rebounding. For some reason, it seems as if we think it's a better idea to swat the ball haphazardly rather than to pull it down. I don't know how many sure defensive rebounds I've seen go the other way, but it makes me sick to my stomach everytime it happens.

Othello Hunter is a bit of an inconsistent defender. He either goes all out and gets the block, or he just lets Hansbrough do whatever he wants. It's starting to get annoying, but it's the really only option we have right now. He is a passionate player, though, so I can give him that.

Once again, the team is playing better with Conley running the floor. I don't know what it is about this guy, but when he's out there he just makes everyone around him better. He may not be as fast as the guy he's assigned to guard, but he is much quicker when it comes to making cuts and splitting the defense. Vitale has touched on it a couple of times, but Conley's mental state of the game is superior to just about any other freshman you'll be able to find.

11:16
Ohio State - 89
North Carolina - 98

Ohio State is in desperation mode right now, so I'm going to start giving my final opinion on the game a bit ahead of time. Ohio State played great, and did much better than I would imagine. However, with the way the game played, I hate to see them lose the game this way. As I predicted, fouls and fatigue were major issues in the second half, and they were ultimately our downfall.

I'm sick and tired of Dick Vitale. I never really had a problem with him before, but he's never really done an Ohio State game recently. He has made about three legitimate points all time -- all points that I could make -- and he just repeated them the entire time. Every other sentence he said was "Just wait until Greg Oden gets back, baby! Patrick Ewing! Shaquille O'Neal Baby!" Yes, this will be a much different (and a much better) team when Oden arrives, but he just sounds like he's making excuses for Ohio State, and nobody wants that. We gave them our best shot, and they beat us. Sure, I'd want to see Ohio State take these guys on again with Oden on a neutral court, I think everyone would.

Ivan Harris is a real frustrating player to watch. You never know what you're going to get out of him. Tonight he was fantastic offensively, but when it came to defense, we were better off with four guys on the court. He, along with the rest of the team, made some real careless mistakes in the second half passing the ball, and those are just unacceptable for a team like this. Matta is the closest thing college basketball has to a Jim Tressel, and there really is no excuse for the simple mistakes.

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