The Huskies battled back and forth last night against the Seton Hall Pirates and despite the Huskies’ best efforts to lose the game, they managed to pull off an 11 point win in overtime to move forward and face the Buckeyes of Ohio State today. The Huskies led by 16 at half before proceeding to allow a crazy comeback by the Pirates who eventually took a 6 point lead. The Dawgs fought and clawed their way to an overtime possession where they outscored the Pirates 13 to 2. I don’t mind a back and forth game, but I was quite annoyed that during the entire 16 point comeback Romar did not once call a timeout to regroup the team and slow down Seton Hall’s momentum. Turnovers once more allowed the opposition to make a game out of what should have been a blowout. The Dawgs did hit nearly 85% of their foul shots including 6-6 at the line by Desmond Simmons who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds. C.J. Wilcox finally got aggressive when his shot wasn’t falling and went to the line 5 times and, unsurprisingly, made all 5 of his shots. Even Aziz N’Diaye made 6 of his 9 attempts to finish just shy of his third straight double-double with 14 points and 9 boards on the day.
The Huskies will be massive underdogs against a very talented and 4th ranked Buckeye team that has already notched a 22 point win over the same Albany Great Danes who upset the Dawgs at home last week and an 11 point win over Rhode Island. The Buckeyes are led by Deshaun Thomas, a 6-7 215lb forward who figures to be a nightmare to contain. Thus far he has put up 19 and 25 points in games alongside a very nice 10 rebound performance against Rhode Island. Thomas is also 5 of 5 from the foul line and is shooting nearly 50% from the field. Desmond Simmons may get the starting nod after showing up so strongly in the past few outings, though having Simmons come off the bench is a nice way to keep our energy and tempo high. Don’t be surprised is Jernard Jerreau continues to start despite Simmons consistently producing better stats.
Aaron Craft, 6-2 195lb, leads the Buckeye backcourt and is another guy who will likely cause the Huskies some troubles. Craft is an excellent shooter with a 16.5 point average on the year as well as being a play maker as seen by his 6 assists per game. As with Thomas, Craft played a full 40 minutes against Rhode Island and could certainly do the same against the Huskies if he continues to be successful on the court.
Junior Lenzelle Smith, 6-4 210lb, is the teams sharp shooting expert. Smith has missed only one attempt of 6 shots made from range after two games, but figures to average out in the mid 40′s as the season progresses. The Huskies did a poor job last night of collapsing on the long ball and it hurt the Dawgs in the second half when their own shooting went cold. The Huskies will need to step their defensive game up in order to pull off the upset.
The Buckeyes are not a great rebounding team and the Huskies can capitalize on this by scrapping after every rebound and gathering up every second opportunity in sight. With N’Diaye and Simmons putting up stellar numbers, the Dawgs can continue to have the remainder of their rotation pick up the odd board here or there to work their way towards 40 boards a night.
What absolutely cannot happen is another 12+ turnover night. The Huskies have had back to back to back games where they have turned the ball over 8+ times in a half. That is simply unacceptable and shows laziness on the part of the players and coaching staff who need to instill more discipline in their execution. I don’t know what it is going to take to have a night where we can walk out of the stadium with less than 10 turnover to our name, but it needs to start happening today. The Buckeyes are averaging less than 10 turnovers a night so it can be done.
It remains to be seen if the Huskies can compete with top tier talent this season, but if there is a team the Dawgs could do it against the Buckeyes are a solid candidate. The Buckeyes are a smaller team with talent loaded in their forwards, but limited elsewhere. If the Huskies can perform well at the charity stripe and continue their strong rebounding ways, a little cleanup on the turnover side of things should allow the Dawgs to make a game of today’s action. After yesterday’s amazing sports outcome that included a double-header win for the Huskies and a loss by the Oregon Ducks to Stanford in overtime, I feel much better than I did a week ago about this team and perhaps the magic can continue just a little bit longer.