(Oh…and there was a basketball game too.)
The Ohio State men’s basketball team, who kindly scheduled their game Sunday afternoon around Urban Meyer’s halftime introduction, entertained a capacity crowd at the Schott with a convincing 80-63 victory over the Indiana Hoosiers.
Part of what made last year’s Buckeye team enjoyable to watch (besides being intermittently treated to Jared Sullinger, Jon Diebler, and Aaron Craft attempting to “sing” Miley Cyrus songs) was the fact that someone new seemingly stepped up to shoulder the load in every game. Sure, Sullinger was technically the star, but it was a pretty safe bet that somebody else was putting up big numbers on any given night. This hasn’t quite been the case as much this year, but Lenzelle Smith Jr. did his best to change that, leading the way with a career high 28 points.
Smith Jr. certainly had help, with Sullinger scoring 16 points, William Buford adding 12, and Deshaun Thomas chipping in 11. But that’s not what I want to talk about. Aaron Craft’s defense (I know, tell me what else is new), particularly while defending Hoosier guard Jordan Hulls, was just downright awesome. I don’t really have another word for it (after all, I certainly wasn’t going to call him a crafty defender), but Craft set the tone right from the start.
Immediately after OSU scored its first basket, Matta’s point guard threw unsuspected pressure at Hulls, forcing a travel and immediately getting the raucous crowd into the game. Craft never eased up on the defensive intensity, even launching himself into the first few rows of the crowd at one point in an effort to retrieve a loose ball. In fact, the only thing I enjoyed more about the afternoon than watching Craft play defense was watching Gene Smith get heartily booed by the majority of the crowd as he took the microphone at halftime.
But I digress.
Clearly bothered by the Buckeye defense, Indiana only managed 14 first half points, and the contest was essentially over. The Buckeyes fixed the turnover problem that plagued them on New Year’s Eve in Bloomington (Craft, who had a career high six turnovers in the first meeting with the Hoosiers did not turn it over once Sunday) and enacted their revenge on Tom Crean’s Indiana squad.
The second half defense wasn’t quite the same from the Buckeyes, but it almost seems like nitpicking after a double digit margin of victory over a top ten ranked team. In fact, my only real concerns about the game were my realization that, between all his whining and “coaching,” Tom Crean is not reprimanded for spending more time on the court than his actual players, and the fact that an Indiana fan ended up winning the American Airlines free flight coupon prize given away during one of the timeouts. That is inexcusable promotional staff. Just inexcusable.
I know, this is supposed to be about basketball, but you didn’t really think I would just leave out anymore mentions of the halftime introduction of our new fearless football leader, did you? After all, how many basketball halftime presentations do you see where nobody gets up from their seats?
After dealing with Gene Smith for a few seconds, the crowd greeted Urban Meyer and his new coaching staff with an extended and passionate standing ovation. Luke Fickell’s reception, consisting of cheers and a “Luuuuuuuke” chant, was so loud that Meyer himself commented on it. Frankly, if you are not excited about the direction that the Buckeye football program is headed under this staff, you may need your Buckeye Nation membership card revoked. Sure, the buzzkill NCAA levied its punishment, but bowls are for cereal anyway, not football teams.
So when it was all said and done, between Meyer, Craft’s defense, Lenzelle Smith Jr. setting a career high in points scored, and some revenge on the pesky Hoosiers, it was a good day to be a Buckeye. But the best part? The free fries at the end. Just make sure you keep scoring 70 points guys, and we’ll all be happy.