The game may have been played in Columbus, but Tuesday night’s matchup between Ohio State and Ohio looked rougher than a night out on Court Street.
And unfortunately for both the Buckeyes and Bobcats, there wasn’t any Goodfella’s pizza or Big Mamma’s burritos to prevent a hangover.
New, less lenient rules in college basketball took center stage at the Schottenstein Center, evidenced by a combined 55 fouls committed by both teams. Ohio State walked away with a 79-69 victory, but nobody felt like a winner after momentum came few and far between for the Buckeyes thanks to the game's grind it out nature.
“That’s what we kind of came into this year understanding how games were going to be called,” Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft said. “A lot of fouls, a lot of stoppage in play. It really just makes you focus.”
Despite scoring a team-high 18 points for the Buckeyes, Craft connected on just two field goals against Ohio on Tuesday night. His other 14 points came byway of free throws, which he took 18 of against the Bobcats.
So is life in college basketball in 2013.
“Right now, we’re going to take advantage of it as long as possible,” Craft said of the new rules. “We need to definitely be careful and just try to get better.”
In reality, the new rules probably helped the Buckeyes more than they hurt them, with Ohio State attempting 51 free throws -- making a program-high 38 of them -- compared to Ohio’s 21 attempts. Five Bobcat players fouled out over the course of the contest, including the team’s leading scorer heading into the game, Maurice Ndour.
But what can’t be accounted for is that the slow-paced nature of the game denied Ohio State of any chance of continued momentum against its in-state opponent, if you’re so inclined to believe in that sort of thing. As a result, what could’ve been big Buckeye runs were replaced with more methodical play on both ends of the floor, which is a big reason why the Bobcats were able to whittle OSU’s lead to just five points with fewer than four minutes remaining in the game.
“That really slowed our defense down. I was trying to get those guys the last 10 minutes of the second half to keep the energy,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. “We gotta continue to adjust."
The Buckeyes adjusted as much as they needed to against Ohio, but next time could be a different story. Ohio State players and coaches alike knew that playing with stricter rules in college basketball could take some getting used to, which is the phase in the season that the Buckeyes currently find themselves in.
"There will probably come a time where it's going to go the other way," Craft said. "If they're gonna do that, then that's how we gotta play."
With the Bobcats heading back on U.S. Route-33 to the “Harvard on the Hocking,” the Buckeyes will now look ahead to Saturday’s 1 p.m. tipoff against No. 17 Marquette. Ohio State’s trip to Milwaukee will double as both its first road contest and game against a ranked opponent this year, but the Buckeyes already feel uniquely tested thanks to their Halloween-like scare from their visitors from Athens.
“It’s definitely going to keep us on our toes,” OSU guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. said. “Marquette is a very good basketball team. Unfortunately for us we’re going to play them on the road inside their house. (The Ohio game) was another humbling experience. No matter who you play, you’ve gotta show up.”