Brandon Paul led four players in double figures with 19 points as No. 11 Illinois beat up No. 8 Ohio State 74-55 in Champaign.
The Illini jumped all over Ohio State early, opening up a 25-13 lead in the first nine minutes and never looking back. At one point early in the second half, Illinois was up 56-31. This wasn’t just a win; Illinois thoroughly dominated in every aspect of the game. Calling the Buckeyes embarrassing would be an understatement.
Perhaps the most significant part of the win, however, is that the Illini were able to grow their lead without the benefit of the three-ball. Tracy Abrams hit a three on the second possession of the game, but it wasn’t until the Illini already had a double-digit lead that they hit their second three of the game. Instead, Illinois was able to put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim, both in the half court and in transition. Teams know that John Groce’s club likes to shoot threes, meaning that the defense isn’t going to be as likely to help off of the shooter. Taking advantage of those driving lanes will be key for Illinois this season.
And it should be noted that the Illini didn’t struggle from deep the entire game; they did hit seven of their last 16 after a 1-10 start.
As far as the Buckeyes are concerned, this performance should be very, very troubling.
Losing by 19 on the road is one thing. Losing as a top ten team that looks like they didn’t care about the fact that they were getting embarrassed on national television is a much bigger issue. Which is why this tweet from Mark Titus, a former walk-on with the Buckeyes, caught my eye:
Some TOs Matta wouldn’t say a thing because Ron Lewis/Lighty/Turner/Diebler would take over huddle. No way that ever happens with this team.—
Mark Titus (@clubtrillion) January 05, 2013
Isn’t that supposed to be Aaron Craft’s job? Isn’t he the one that’s on the floor for his defense and his leadership? Isn’t that one of the biggest reasons that he’s considered by most to be one of the nation’s elite point guards?
Now I’m mostly spitballing here, but I am curious to see how people feel: If Craft isn’t going to be the kind of vocal and emotional leader that can get this group to snap out of a funk on the road, should Thad Matta start playing Shannon Scott more minutes as the primary ball-handler?
Calling Craft a liability offensively is unfair, but it is fair to say that the Buckeyes are going to have problems when he is the second-best scorer on the floor. Craft is a guy you want to be a facilitator and an opportunity scorer, not a guy that should be hunting shots.
Ohio State does not have a ton of offensive firepower outside Deshaun Thomas. Scott is a much more dynamic offensive player than Craft, and while few are as good as Craft is defensively, Scott is not that much of a drop-off.
Leave your thoughts in the comments.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.