There aren't many teams that have the character and makeup of Chris Holtmann's Ohio State Buckeyes.
I am so impressed with their culture as the season progresses. How many teams can lose two point guards within a couple games of each other and not lose in their absence? It can't be many.
In Saturday's fabulous road win over a star-studded Illinois team, two sequences stood out most to me in the second half that most exemplify the kind of spirit I'm referencing.
The first one involved Seth Towns, who had a very solid game coming off the bench on Saturday afternoon. Towns air-balled a rhythm (albeit contested) 3-pointer in the right corner, but didn't hang his head. Instead, he ran back down on the defensive end and stepped in a passing lane to take away an easy low pots opportunity for Illinois. Towns took the ball up the other end of the floor, racing down knowing he could draw contact at the rim. Towns hit a layup, got the foul and buried the ensuing free throw.
“A lot of games are going too come down to the wire," Towns said after the game. "They did a good job going on a run and fighting back hard, but we did a good job executing in the end.”
It was sequences like that one that lifted Ohio State to victory. You can't coach heart, and Towns' leadership is awfully impressive.
The second sequence that really stood out to me came courtesy of Musa Jallow - another non-starter who's made a really meaningful impact this year.
Kofi Cockburn had just hammered home a big dunk to cut the Illinois deficit eight points with just over two minutes to play. E.J. Liddell misfired from 3-point range and Illinois had some momentum going. As 3-point specialist Adam Miller lined up from the right corner for a transition triple-try, Jallow hustled back down defensively after Liddell's miss and blocked Miller's shot.
He quickly put on the breaks and raced up the floor to get an outlet pass the other way, where he drew a foul of his own.
It's so hard to win on the road in the Big Ten, especially against a team as high-quality as Illinois. You need your best players to play well, for sure, but you have to get a full team effort from start to finish if you want to win games like the Buckeyes did today. Seth Towns and Musa Jallow did their part and showcased why Ohio State's culture is really special this year.
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