Diebler’s Three May Hold the Key
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jon Diebler may hold the key to Ohio State’s national title hopes in the palm of his hand.
Although the Buckeyes have an array of lethal scoring threats at their disposal, including National Freshman of the Year Jared Sullinger, history would suggest their fate is tied directly to their sharp-shooting senior.
Photo by Dan Harker
The school’s all-time leading three-point shooter has also been one of the most efficient scorers in the country this season. Of his 276 shot attempts this season, 220 of them have come from behind the arc, where is he is shooting 50 percent for the year.
What is even more impressive is that only two players from the Big Ten—Northwestern’s Michael Thompson and Penn State’s Talor Battle—attempted more shots from behind the arc. Diebler had a stretch where he hit 17 of 20 from long-range in early March, and has now scored double-digits in 11-straight games.
That includes all three games in the Big Ten Tournament and both games on opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. He has hit 14 of his last 29 shots from outside, but the Buckeyes will need him to stay hot if they hope to get past Kentucky Friday night, and eventually to Houston for the Final Four.
If he doesn’t, history would suggest the Buckeyes will have a hard time advancing much further in this year’s tournament.
In Ohio State’s last two postseason losses, including the one to Tennessee in last year’s Sweet 16, Diebler has been ice-old from behind the arc. After scoring a combined 43 points against UC Santa Barbara and Georgia Tech on the opening weekend of the tournament, Diebler was just 1-for-8 from the floor (1-7 behind the arc) in Ohio State’s 76-73 loss to the Volunteers.
That performance came one year after Diebler went 2-for-11 from three in a double-overtime loss to Siena in the first round of the 2008-09 NCAA Tournament.
It certainly isn’t fair to put these two losses on Diebler’s shoulders. With David Lighty out, William Buford, P.J. Hill and Jeremie Simmons combined to shoot 3-for-12 from long distance in that Siena game. Given that, it’s amazing the Buckeyes were able to force two overtimes.
Last year, they simply got out-rebounded and out-hustled on both ends of the floor by Tennessee, but Diebler’s cold shooting night certainly didn’t help. Had he gone 3-for-7 instead of 1-for-7, the Buckeyes theoretically win the game 79-73.
Ohio State certainly has other scoring options if Diebler has an off night, especially if Lighty is playing well offensively. Sullinger carries a lot of the load inside and Buford is more than capable of knocking down shots from the outside, but the correlation between Diebler’s success rate and that of Ohio State’s is a bit staggering.
Over the last two years, Diebler has shot 49 percent from the floor and 47.8 percent from behind the arc in Ohio States. In losses, however, Diebler shoots only 33.7 percent from the floor and 30.8 percent from outside.
That’s not an indictment of Diebler, because the Buckeyes have won (63) a whole lot more than they have lost (10) since that Siena game, but it paints a clear picture of how much Ohio State relies on his outside shooting.
Especially in big games.
The Buckeyes have proven they can withstand off shooting nights from both Buford and Lighty, but it is rare that they escape a big game with a win if Diebler is misfiring on his threes.
Ohio State did survive at Florida State earlier this year when Diebler went 2-for-10 behind the arc, but only because their defense held the Seminoles to a season-low 44 points. Diebler also did a good job of getting to the free throw line five times in that game, but the Buckeyes had only 58 points, which isn’t going to win a whole lot of the time.
They weren’t as fortunate last season in losses to North Carolina, Butler, and Wisconsin. Diebler had 17 points against the Tar Heels in New York, but shot just 3-for-10 from behind the arc and the Buckeyes lost 77-73. He was 1-of-4 on threes in a 74-66 loss at Butler and 1-of-5 in a 65-43 loss at Wisconsin.
Diebler lit it up during the 2010 postseason, averaging 14.7 points per game during the Big Ten Tournament and 21.5 points during the first two games of the NCAA Tournament. He had knocked down 22 of his 47 threes in the post season before hitting the skids against Tennessee.
He is putting up similar numbers in this postseason, despite the fact he was just 1-for-5 behind the arc against Northwestern in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament. As a result, the Wildcats took Ohio State to overtime.
If the Buckeyes want to avoid a similar, or worse, fate Friday night, they had better hope Diebler is on.
Diebler’s Post-Season History at a Glance
2011 NCAA (2 wins): 13.5 ppg, 8-18 FG, 8-16 3PT, 3.5 ast, 3.5 reb
2011 BTT (3 wins): 14.7 ppg, 15-30 FG, 7-18 3PT, 1.7 ast, 4.7 reb
2010 NCAA Loss to Tenn: 3 pts, 1-8 FG, 1-7 3PT, 0 ast, 0 reb
2010 NCAA (2 wins): 21.5 ppg, 14-26 FG, 11-22 3PT, 1.5 ast, 1.5 reb
2010 BTT (3 wins): 14.7ppg, 14-30 FG, 11-25 3PT, 0.7 ast, 1.5 reb
2009 NCAA loss to Siena: 6 pts, 2-12 FG, 2-11 3PT, 6 reb, 2 ast
2009 BTT loss to Purdue: 15 pts, 5-12 FG, 5-10 3PT, 2 ast, 4 reb
2009 BTT (2 wins): 11.5 ppg, 7-17 FG, 5-12 3PT, 2 ast, 4.5 reb
2008 NIT (5 wins): 15 min/pg, 4.6 ppg, 6-18 FG, 4-13 3PT, 1.7 ast, 2.4 reb
2008 BTT loss to MSU: 4 min, 0pts, 0-1 FG, 0-1 3PT, 0 ast, 1 reb
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