Ohio State vs. Michigan Preview

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Established October 31, 1996
Front Page Columns and Features
Last updated: 03/11/2011 8:00 PM
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Men's Basketball
Cold Shooting Rears its Ugly Head in Ugly Win over Wildcats
By John Porentas

What happened to the Buckeyes?

In their last two outing prior to the Big Ten tournament the Buckeyes looked like a team that could throw a semi truck through a keyhole from beyond the three point line. Against Penn State OSU shot 55.4 percent from the field including 54.2 percent from behind the three point line. Those are great numbers, but pale next to the performance they turned in on senior night in the season finale. In that game against Wisconsin, OSU was 68.1 percent from the field and an NCAA record 14-of-15 (93.3 percent) from beyond the three point line.

Buckeyes Nation, and perhaps the entire nation, expected more of the same kind of shooting in the Big Ten tournament against Northwestern. What they got was not even close. OSU shot an anemic 32.2 percent for the game and an absolutely pitiful 20 percent (3 for 15) from beyond he arc. That 32.2 percent number is their lowest of the season.

How does that happen? Thad Matta gave a little hint in his post-game comments.

"It was funny during the first half, we were talking as coaches and saying we can't make a shot. And I said it's this way every year in the first game," said Matta.

OK, that's what happens, but what people want to know is why. The Buckeyes weren't willing to offer any excuses for the poor shooting night, but little by little a picture emerged of a whole lot of little things coming together at just right time that conspired to produce what we got.

To begin, the Buckeyes had a bye in the first round, and that meant an extra day off. That was one more day to accumulate a little rust and lose that shooting eye.

Then there was the opponent. Northwestern took a lot of air out of the ball, going deep into the shot clock on each of their possessions. That meant that the number of possessions for the Buckeyes was going to be limited, and that meant that the Buckeyes weren't going to have much of a chance to shoot their way out of the slump. It was a bad combination for OSU's shooting woes.

"You want to come in and try to get up as many shots as you can, but we only have 60 minutes, and playing them you have limited possessions, as well, so you don't get in a flow like you normally do in a regular game," said OSU freshman point guard Aaron Craft.

"I think that definitely had something to do with it."

That explains how things evolved. What still remains is why they started out the way they did. The Buckeyes were playing in an unfamiliar venue, and did not have a shoot around prior to the game.

"You know, honestly it's impossible to do, just because -- we may have had shoot-around time, but it may have been like 6:30 this morning, which obviously we weren't going to take," said Matta.

"You do get 30 minutes prior, but we're at that stage on March 11th where we're kind of a routine-type team. I think we'll have one tomorrow if I'm not mistaken."

Extra day off, strange venue, no shoot around, and there's more. The basketball being used for the tournament is different from the ones used all season long. Add it all up, and there's a good chance you get a miserable shooting night.

"I guess you could say so," said David Lighty when asked if the day off and lack of shoot around may have affected OSU.

"Then throw in the new basketballs and things like that, but they're playing with the same ball and doing the same things we're doing," Lighty said.

Will the Buckeyes repeat the cold shooting against Michigan tomorrow? Probably not, but if they do, they now know what it takes to win when the shots aren't going down. It's the same thing that got them past the Wildcats.

"If you're not knocking down shots, the only thing that can help you is defense and rebounding," said William Buford.

True enough, but I'm betting there are a whole lot of people around the Buckeye state hoping the bad shooting Buckeyes have had their moment, and that the good shooting Buckeyes make a return against the Wolverines.

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