Other Ohio State Thoughts January 6, 2013
OHIO STATE is the 74-55 game? What?
We beat Gardner Webb with a Griffey three, played a solid game against Georgia Tech, but then played down to Western Carolina, Norfolk State, and Eastern Kentucky. Which of course leads to us blowing out Ohio State by 19 at home.
Assembly Hall used to be a place where nobody wanted to play. Hey, let’s drag out that “in the 13 seasons this century” statistic again.
First seven seasons (2000-2006): 3 home losses
Last six seasons (2007-2012): 25 home losses
So job #1 for John Groce was to make Assembly Hall a frightening place to play again. And, truth be told, through December, that just wasn’t the case. We were lethargic at home. Our best four games were all on the road.
That changed yesterday. Hopefully, it’s a trend that continues. (See also: hopefully Minnesota plays as poorly and as uninspired as Ohio State played.)
Does this game kill “live by the three, die by the three”? Because we should have died (29.6%). So if we not only live, but we beat the #8 team by 19 while shooting 29.6% from deep, then… what? We’re capable of beating the Bulls when we’re hitting from three?
Yes, part of that spread was Ohio State. They were either uninspired or, possibly, in really big trouble in the Big Ten. Deshaun Thomas is a scorer. Aaron Craft can set up scorers. After that they have zero identity. When your offense is “Craft gets the ball to Thomas where he can possibly maybe score”, you’re in trouble. Lenzelle Smith is a nice player (but a complimentary player), Amir Williams isn’t ready, teams will play 6 feet off of Sam Thompson until he proves he has a jump shot, Shannon Scott is a year away… if those young guys don’t step forward soon, they might be in trouble.
But that only accounts for so much. We played solid defense, chased rebounds, got into the lane, etc etc. We basically won the game with everything not named “shoot well from long range”. Tyler Griffey had his roughest game this season (0-6 from three) and we won by 19. I don’t think anybody saw that coming.
Which has me encouraged that my little “just get to 9-9 in conference” is under-selling things a bit. Play like that, and add in some three point shooting, and we can win on the road against a ranked Big Ten opponent. It’s been a long time since I felt that was possible.
As always, I’m thinking about the possible step backwards next season. In, say, late November, it really looked like we’d have to rely on the freshmen in the 2013 class to fill in the gaps next season. Our four seniors were leading the way, and the thought of having to turn to freshmen next year was a bit scary.
But I’d say starting with the Georgia Tech game and carrying forward to today, we’ve gotten a better idea about the 2013/14 Illini. It starts with Tracy Abrams. He showed in the United Center game that he can carry a team to a win. He showed yesterday that while yes, he has to cut down on turnovers, he can be that “wow, six rebounds and three steals to go along with his 13 points?” guy. And he’s a bulldog – John Groce preaches toughness, and Tracy will lead us in that department for the next few seasons.
And I think we keep seeing that Joseph Bertrand will be the go-to scorer next season. He’s been streaky over the last season and a half, but as he gets a little more consistent each game, I don’t think it’s out of the question to say that he’ll be The Guy next year.
The bonus is Nnanna Egwu’s improved play. He was much more under control yesterday. He still needs to work on securing the ball (both in rebounding and entry passes), but his defense keeps improving game to game. I’d say he’s primed to take a step forward next year.
The next step would be to get Myke Henry to start to gain more and more minutes. He’s probably the most instinctual rebounder on the team, and we really need him to be ready to give us 29 minutes per game at the four next year. And if I might ask for one more thing – we’ll need Drake transfer Rayvonte Rice to come in and do his best glue guy impression.
If we get all of that, the freshmen can be role players, not “we need 23 solid minutes from you” guys. Yes, next year is probably a step back from this year. But it’s also a team with only one senior, which means, hopefully, 2014/15 will be more of the same, only senior-y.
And then the top-5 2015 recruiting class arrives.