We’re talking about a guy who played with Mike Conley and Greg Oden in a losing effort against Joakim Noah and the Florida Gators. That age and experience is certainly paying off for the Buckeyes right now. Behind the efforts and leadership of the Cleveland VASJ alum, the Buckeyes knocked off Illinois 89-70 last night in Columbus.
In a tough stretch including losses to Wisconsin and Purdue after becoming the #1 team in the nation, Lighty has provided the steady hand. The Buckeyes appeared again to be especially susceptible to the long ball on Tuesday night in Columbus. The Buckeyes had a fifteen point lead at halftime 47-32, but the Illini bombed in eight three-pointers, four of which were knocked down by Mike Tisdale*.
*I don’t know about the rest of you, but this alone makes me fear some three-point bombing Cinderella in the tourney.
Last night, however, the Buckeyes responded with defense. With just under six minutes remaining in the first half the Bucks were hanging on by a slim margin 33-30. Over those final five minutes the Buckeyes held Illinois to two points while scoring 14. The Buckeyes were challenging shots by closing out on the perimeter better. It might be nice if they started a game doing that, though rather than getting a wake-up call via made baskets.
Back to David Lighty. In the second half as Illinois was challenging, David Lighty took over. He scored 13 straight points for the Buckeyes. He was creating turnovers. He had four of his six steals in the second half and they were back-breakers for Illinois as they led to Lighty streaking down the court toward the hoop. In 39 minutes Lighty put up 21 points in leading the Buckeyes.
The rest of the Buckeyes provided a lot of production too. There were five Bucks in double figures with Lighty, William Buford (17), Jon Diebler (13, 3-3 from three-point land), Jared Sullinger (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Aaron Craft (12 points, six assists). Sullinger had a tough, physical game where he had to work especially hard for everything, shooting only 6-14 from the floor.
Next up, the Buckeyes welcome Indiana to Columbus on Sunday February 27th at 4:00 PM. The Hoosiers are 12-15 on the season and 3-11 in the Big Ten.
(Photo AP / Paul Vernon)