Diebler's Driving Can Take Buckeyes Far
By Tony Gerdeman
Ohio State has won six games in a row
since losing to Purdue back on February 2. During
that time, despite two single-digit wins in the Big Ten Tournament,
the Buckeyes are winning their games by an average of 17 points.
Not unrelatedly, in that span, Jon
Diebler is shooting 60% from behind the three-point line.
Clearly of note in those six games is
Diebler's amazing 10-12 outburst from three-point land against Penn
State. Ironically, however, it's something that he didn't do much of
in that game that, of late, is making him more dangerous than
ever—he's attacking the basket.
“Adding that dimension of putting it
on the floor makes it that much harder for teams to match up with
me,” says Diebler.
“Not only does it get shots for me, it gets
shots for everyone else, because last year I was a spot up shooter
and teams were allowed to focus in and just stand by me, but this
year just adding that other element makes us that much better of a
While that element has been seen
throughout the season, only of late has it really taken root.
Several times this year we have seen Diebler stymied and unable to
get up many shot attempts. Prior to March, Diebler had only taken
ten or more field goal attempts four times this season. In the four games played
in March, however, he's taken ten or more shots in every single game.
The fact that Diebler is now looking
for more ways to score means that opposing teams will have to look
for may ways to defend him. The more shots Diebler can get, the better
it will be for the Buckeyes. Not only is he second in the
nation in three-point field goal percentage at 49.7%, but his 55%
shooting on two-pointers would put him fifth in the Big Ten in
shooting, ahead of the likes of teammate Jared Sullinger.
Diebler's driving to the basket really
took off against Wisconsin, even though he only took two two-point
field goal attempts. He was fouled going to the basket a couple of
times, and it paid off in free throw attempts.
Over the course of the Big Ten
regular season, Diebler only took three or more two-point field goal
attempts twice. The first time came in January's close win at home
over Penn State, and the second time in the home win over Michigan.
In the Big Ten Tournament, however,
Diebler has done it in both games, and with success.
“I'm really just
taking what the defense is giving me,” he says matter-of-factly.
“With how I was shooting the ball before the Big Ten tournament
teams are really focused on not letting me shoot, but when you have
guys like Dave, Will and Jared and Craft out on the court, it's hard
to focus on somebody when they're driving the basketball because
we've got so many playmakers on the perimeter. With Jared and
Dallas inside, Coach told me they're staying at home on the wings and
on Jared, so I just have to finish.”
And finishing he
is. He is 6-9 on two-point field goal attempts in the Big Ten
Tournament, and making teams pay for playing up on him so much. The
harder it is for teams to guard Diebler, the easier it is for his
teammates to score. And some of that is hand-delivered by Diebler
himself. In the four games played this month, he has had three games
with three or more assists. In the sixteen Big Ten games leading up
to March, he did it just four times.
He's also getting
to the free throw line more often. Five times this season he has
gone to the line five or more times in a game, and three of those
have come in the Buckeyes' six-game winning streak.
Attacking the basket has opened up and improved every single aspect of Diebler's offensive game. But this new-found
ability isn't going to his head. He still knows the
“It helps to have great players on
the floor with you,” he says.
“We've got a lot of very good
basketball players and it's hard to focus on somebody when they're
driving to the basket, whoever that may be, because you've got people
who can knock the shots down from the outside.”
Even when touting his own recent
hot shooting, he still won't stray far from crediting his teammates.
“That really opened driving lanes for
me,” he says of his 17 of 20 spree from three-point range.
“It's a lot easier when you're
playing with great players because everyone draws so much attention
that it's hard to focus on one guy.”
“We're so confident right now in our
system. We trust what the coaches have us doing offensively and
defensively. We feel we can get any shot we want because of the
personnel we have on the court.”
But it goes beyond trust. There is
work involved. A player can't go from stationary jump-shooter to
whirling dervish just on a whim.
“It's something we worked extremely
hard on in the off-season,” he says. “All of a sudden now I'm
going to get away from what I do best. You just always have to be
able to mix up your game a little bit and make progress.”
Looking at the results, it's hard to
argue that progress hasn't been made. And continues to appear quite
promising with each passing day.
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