Steve Muza / For The Lantern
At times during the 2011-12 Ohio State men’s basketball season, the team has struggled to contain its opponents’ biggest scorers, but that wasn’t the case Wednesday against Penn State junior point guard Tim Frazier.
The No. 4-ranked Buckeyes were burned by Illinois junior guard Brandon Paul on Jan. 10, who scored a career-high 43 points, including a 3-pointer with less than a minute to play, to defeat OSU, 79-74. In a Dec. 10 loss to Kansas, the Buckeyes failed to stop Thomas Robinson, the Jayhawks’ junior forward. Robinson has a 21-point game that lead to a 78-67 Jayhawks upset.
Indiana junior guard Jordan Hulls led the Hoosiers with 17 points to contribute to a 74-70 upset on Dec. 31.
But on Wednesday, Frazier didn’t make his mark on the scoreboard until he connected on a jumper at 12:42 in the first half.
Matta credited sophomore point guard Aaron Craft for rising to the challenge of guarding Frazier, as well as the team for supporting Craft on the floor.
“Aaron likes a good challenge and Tim Frazier is definitely a heck of a challenge,” said OSU coach Thad Matta. “Also, for the majority of the game we gave him pretty good support.”
Frazier leads the Big Ten in scoring (19.4), assists (5.3) and steals (2.5) per game in conference play. He is the only player in any of the 32 NCAA Division I conferences to lead his league in those three categories.
Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said playing at home helped OSU, but he also acknowledged Craft’s performance as a key factor in the Buckeyes’ victory.
“Going on the road in the Big Ten is absolutely brutal,” Chambers said. “I think he (Craft) got into Tim a little bit. He got into him mentally and physically.”
But Craft said his teammates’ efforts were also key in shutting down Frazier.
“It’s all five of us trying to corral him, get the ball out of his hands and hopefully make other people make play,” Craft said. “I think we did a good job today as a team recognizing where he was.”
After the Illinois loss, Matta said his team had to find another gear and continue to improve its execution.
“Guys are starting to understand their roles better. There are some great challenges ahead for us,” Matta said. “Our execution is getting better, which we need to continue improving during practice.”
Craft said great practices have been an eye opener for the young team.
“I think that in the games we’ve played well, we have had good practices going in,” Craft said. “At the beginning of the year, we didn’t realize how important practice is. We’re starting to realize that if we have a good week of practice, it spills over into the game.”
OSU is tied atop the Big Ten standings with Michigan and Michigan State.
The Wolverines travel to Columbus, Ohio, Sunday to play the Buckeyes at the Schottenstein Center at 1 p.m.