It is amazing how quickly things can get out of hand. Trailing only 65-61 with just 6:18 left, the game was there for us to take. Ohio State missed a shot, and the rebound was up for grabs, If we grab it, we can cut the lead to one and have momentum. Even before that, D.J. Byrd had missed a three that would have tied it. We still needed that board, and it bounced around as it seemed like both sides were playing volleyball with it.
Deshaun Thomas outworked us, however. He never gave up on the play, constantly tipping it until he could corral the ball for a putback. It ended up being a devastating play, as William Buford woke up and it was the first of 14 straight points for OSU that basically ended the game. Even in the postgame press conference Jared Sullinger called it an energy play, and all the credit went to Thomas.
I am still proud of our Boilers, however. They never quit in this game and hung right with Ohio State for most of the night again. Even after falling behind by 11 earlier in the second half we didn't quit, as Terone Johnson got The Look and took the game over for a brief period. With Robbie Hummel struggling, Lewis Jackson limited in the second half, and Ryne Smith struggling as well, we saw the future and next season on display. It is clear that D.J. Byrd and Terone Johnson will be next year's leaders while the freshmen get their feet wet, and we'll be just fine as a result.
In a way, this game can be a blessing, as LewJack and Rob get more rest now before the real Tournament begins. This is their swan song. We know we're likely getting an OSU-level of team in the second round of the NCAA Tournament if we get there, and we also know we can hang with them. It is now time for the season to be put to use and do a little damage even when no one expects us to.
I know I am crazy, but I still believe this can be a Sweet 16 team. Realistically, my goal is to keep the 13-game first round win streak alive and see what happens from there. The dreamer in me knows that teams like George Mason, Butler, and VCU have done more with less. All that matters is that you make the tournament, because then you have a chance.
To finish, here are some key points from the post-game presser. It's been an exhausting day, so I will have much more later on the NCAA chances.
Painter on the overall game:
We were poor in transition, we didn't get some shots to fall, and we didn't get on the glass. You have to credit Ohio State. I thought Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas. They only got seven offensive rebounds, but every one they got made us pay.
LewJack on gaps:
When we got it close we got a couple of defensive stops, but we didn't capitalize on rebounding opportunities. William Buford got a leak out and made us pay.
On Lew's second half struggles
The ball just didn't go my way, but you have to take your hate off to Sullinger because he played great defense.
D.J. Byrd on LewJack:
He did a great job of distributing the ball. Obviously with the ten assists he was looking to get the rest of us involved.
Lew on NCAAs:
It's kind of been a funny year. This team, with all we went through, we just wanted to get in position. Honestly, once you get in that's all that matters.
Painter on technical:
One of their bigs was just just grabbing our guys and I pointed it out to them because he was just grabbing him and holding him down. So I pointed it out and the official just stared at it and ignored it. i can't really repeat what I said after that.
Obviously it is very hard for me. He's a great coach and a better person. Honestly, I think it is Illinois' loss. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't be here, but he'll bounce back.