First Thoughts - Iowa

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Last updated: 01/23/2013 5:05 AM
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Men's Basketball
First Thoughts From Ohio State's 72-63 Win Over Iowa
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Just imagine how much better you would feel about this team if you had turned the game off when the Buckeyes were leading 53-29 with 12:48 to play. You would have missed Iowa's 34-19 run over those final 12 minutes and you wouldn't be constipated with doom and gloom.

But you just had to watch all the way until the end, didn't you?

I can't blame you for feeling the way you do. All teams "check out" a bit mentally when they get up by 24 points in the second half, but few teams allow their lead to be whittled down to just four points 11 minutes later.

There are plenty of issues with this team, we know that. One of the issues that doesn't get talked about as much, however, is the absence of a player who simply isn't going to allow a lead like that go to waste. Evan Turner wouldn't allow it. Jared Sullinger wouldn't allow it. There's nobody on this team who will simply put their foot down and stop something like this from happening.

It would be nice to say that Deshaun Thomas is that player, but the Hawkeyes were already on a 7-0 run when he took a pair of elbows to the eye.

It was the second time in three games that the Buckeyes lost at least 20 points of a lead. Against Michigan, they lost a 21-point lead entirely when the Wolverines tied the game late in the second half.

All teams have a tendency to coast with a big lead, but good teams can put their foot back on the gas pedal when necessary. There is obviously no killer instinct on this team right now, not that we should even be talking about that at the moment.

After all, before you can have a killer instinct, you have to stop getting killed.

LaQuinton Ross
Photo by Jim Davidson
LaQuinton Ross

Getting What You Want. Fans have practically been begging Thad Matta to give LaQuinton Ross more playing time, and Matta finally relented. Ross scored seven points in the first half and pulled down five rebounds in nine minutes of play.

He hit the only three-pointer that he took, and the net never moved. His next basket was a pump fake, dribble and pull-up jumper that was just as smooth. His third basket came in the post via a little half hook. He provided the offense that Buckeye fans had been saying he would.

Then came the second half. Ross entered the second half with seven points and five rebounds. He finished the game with those same seven points and five rebounds, and played two more minutes in the second half than he did in the first.

He finished the game with five turnovers, including one late in the game when the Buckeyes were up by seven points, which Iowa converted into a basket to make the score 63-58.

That being said, these are minutes that Ross absolutely has to play right now. Matta doesn't want him dribbling the ball into somebody else's hands against a better opponent, so he has to somehow try and get Ross more comfortable right now.

You could see that Ross felt terrible about that turnover, because he ramped up his defensive intensity, almost fouling in the process on the ensuing possession. It has to be frustrating to be a player and not be allowed to make mistakes. Imagine if Matta had never let Evan Turner make mistakes.

Don't Get Me Wrong. I think LaQuinton Ross is still very much a work in progress. If he is a plus athlete, he doesn't show it on the basketball court. He is not fast, he is not quick. He is not smooth on the dribble. But he does have an incredible feel for the basket, although getting there is half the battle with him. He sometimes spaces out a bit on the court. Not quite like a kid in right field in tee ball, but close.

The one thing that he can do, however, is shoot. and that just happens to be one of the bigger flaws that this team has. As long as his shot is falling, 20 minutes a night should be a solid average for him. Just remember, LaQuinton Ross is AN answer, but he is not THE answer.

Responding to the Pressure. Did you notice how assertive Lenzelle Smith and Sam Thompson were on offense? I chalk that up to pressure from Shannon Scott and Ross. It's amazing what can happen when players start to feel a little uncomfortable.

Lenzelle Smith
Photo by Jim Davidson
Lenzelle Smith

Nobody wants to lose minutes, especially starters. The only way to keep that from happening is to play better and to do more while on the court. Both players did that in this game.

Smith took the ball to the basket, pushed tempo, looked for his shot, and basically just made himself an important piece of the puzzle. Iowa couldn't ignore him.

Thompson looked great with a pull-up jumper off the dribble, as well as a three-pointer from the wing. I would still like him to take the ball to the basket more, rather than just being a hand-off man at the top of the key in the half-court offense.

Steel sharpens steel, and if these four players can continue to force eachother to play better, then the entire team will be better off for it.

Amir Williams
Photo by Jim Davidson
Amir Williams

All of the Blocks. It was pretty good to see the defense from Amir Williams that we saw flashes of last year. He had six blocks, and while that's more than expected, it's closer to what I expected than what we've seen from him this year.

Williams should never have a game where he doesn't have at least a couple of blocks, especially now that he's starting. Perhaps this will get him going defensively.

None of the Rebounds. How does your starting center play 17 minutes and not pull down a single rebound? Amir Williams was the only Buckeye who played and didn't get a rebound. Shannon Scott got three rebounds in 18 minutes. LaQuinton Ross got five in nine minutes!

Yes, Williams has bad hands, but your starting center should never be the weakest rebounder on the team. I realize Matta is just trying to keep Williams' head in the game at this point, and I agree with the strategy, but he has to address this with Williams. Rebounding is about effort as much as it is anything else. If you're not getting rebounds, then you're simply not trying hard enough to get them.

When you look at the box score and see Iowa's 22 offensive rebounds, remember how many defensive rebounds your tallest player had.

Quick Thoughts. The Buckeyes have had issues with their free throws at times this season, but they did a great job hitting them down the stretch to keep Iowa from actually getting to within a single possession in this game. ... I was pleased to see Shannon Scott take a dribble inside the three-point line and hit an open jumper. He did it again shortly after that and rimmed it in and out. Just because you're open behind the three-point line doesn't mean you have to take the three. Scott seems to finally be learning that. ... If you've noticed, Aaron Craft is finishing on his drives a lot better over the last month or so than he did the first month. I think Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel are finally getting used to playing with Craft, and they're getting better at sealing their man and keep him from getting in Craft's way. And Craft is finally comfortable playing with the both of them. ... How about Deshaun Thomas taking elbows from two different players on the same exact play? That guy can't do anything in moderation. ... Also, Deshaun Thomas should never have just 11 field goal attempts. That's criminal. And don't be surprised when he files charges. ... I'm tired of hearing about Aaron Craft's shot. A shooter can have seven hitches in his shot, but as long as he has a routine, a rhythm and the proper muscle memory, then what's the problem? Would people want to change Reggie Miller's shot if he stepped on campus today? He has one of the ugliest jumpshots in NBA history, but nobody complained about his form because the shot went in. All a shot needs is practice to work. That's all. Anybody can become a shooter. It doesn't matter how picture perfect your form is if you don't practice shooting. The ball doesn't magically go in just because a textbook wants to include the form on your jumper in their next edition. ... Speaking of Craft, his offensive foul late in the game was a good call if for no other reason than it was an unnecessary attempt at contact. Yes, there was a flop, but Craft thinks he can get away with just about anything. Granted, that's not entirely his fault since he's not the one with the whistle.

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