First Thoughts From the Buckeyes' 74-66 Loss to Kansas
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sometimes, despite being a talented team, flaws are too much to overcome. That was certainly the case in this game as the Buckeyes' shooting apparently went on Christmas Break one day early.
Ohio State shot 20-65 (30.8%) from the field and just 8-31 (25.8%) from three-point territory in their loss to Kansas. The second half was particularly bad. In that half the Buckeyes went 9-36 (25%) from the field and 2-18 (11%) from three-point range.
The worst part about this shooting display is that a good number of those shots were tremendous looks. They just didn't drop.
It's not like the shooting performance was anomalous, because the Buckeyes simply don't have a great number of good shooters. Yes, they were worse than normal, but there's no reason to think that this was a one-time thing.
Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson have shown that they worked on their shooting in the offseason, but it certainly wasn't on display in this game, yet they were the two most productive guards. Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith combined to shoot 5-24 from the field and rarely looked comfortable.
Ohio State has now played two ranked opponents this season and they have lost both times. They will get better as the season goes, but perimeter shooting can leave a troubled shooter at any time.
Just ask William Buford.
Center of Attention. I don't think the Buckeyes did all that poorly against Kansas center Jeff Withey. He started well early, but only blocked one shot, though he certainly disrupted a few more. He had more turnovers than blocks, and missed more shots than he made.
Had Ohio State hit half of their open shots, the Buckeyes win and the pregame worry about Withey looks like a pleasant mistake. As it stands now, however, Ohio State got a very good look at a seven-footer, and they didn't blink too badly.
It was also good to see Amir Williams play well in the second half against him. He had some very low spots in the first half, but he battled back and matched Withey elbow for elbow and block for block.
It was a promising effort from Williams, but we've seen those before.
Deshaun Derailed. Deshaun Thomas scored 16 points on 4-11 shooting, but had issues all day long with Kansas' defense. Just about every time he would get the ball inside the three-point line, a double team would come flying at him and he would either have to manufacture a contested shot, or find the open man for a missed three.
As you can see, it was quite the dilemma.
Thomas is a tremendous scorer, but he is not a tremendous athlete. He has trouble scoring against "plus" athletes, and Kansas certainly has those. Had the Buckeyes hit their open shots, things would have opened up for him more, but they didn't.
It would appear that this game went just about exactly as Bill Self had designed, i.e. let everybody but Thomas beat them. Kansas had no respect for the Buckeyes' perimeter game, and it absolutely paid off.
The rest of the teams on Ohio State's schedule will try to mimic Kansas' success, and it will be up to the Buckeyes' shooting as to whether or not it will work.
Refinement Needed. I think the Buckeyes are very talented, but I do not think they are very skilled. They have athletic talent, and they have basketball talent, but their skills are still lacking.
To me, talent is having the ability to get a shot, or to get to a spot on the court. Skill is having the ability to make that shot, and to do something positive once you reach that spot on the court.
This team is a work in progress offensively, but there are some nice materials to build around. The talent is there, the skills are still being refined.
We know that Sam Thompson can make a three. Now he needs to make them consistently. We know that Amir Williams can finish, but he has to do it at a much larger clip than he is doing now. We know that Aaron Craft has the ability to score in the paint, but now he just needs to build a time machine and travel back to last year to find it.
The Engine. Shannon Scott was the difference in the first half. The Buckeyes went on their 14-0 run with him on the court, and the Buckeyes outscored Kansas 25-12 in his first seven minutes in the game.
To start the second half, it seemed to me like the Buckeyes were simply waiting for the first four or five minutes to pass so that Scott would get back in the game and crank up the tempo.
I'm a firm believer in Scott coming off of the bench, but if Lenzelle Smith and Aaron Craft continue to struggle, I'm not sure how much longer I can validly argue for my beliefs.
If Scott moves into the starting lineup, who do you bench? Lenzelle Smith or Sam Thompson? Smith would provide a better spark off of the bench, but I wonder if Thad Matta is wary of "demoting" anybody right now. This team is still trying to find itself, and changing the starting lineup might make that process take even longer.
But let's not pretend like the Buckeyes are broken. They have two losses, both to Top 10 teams. That's not broken, that's normal.
Don't Give Up Hope Yet. Yes, the Buckeyes struggled shooting the ball, but a team only needs to shoot well for the last three or four games of the year. Meaning, from the Sweet 16 on. The Buckeyes can get by without stellar three-point shooting until then.
I'm not saying it's going to happen, I'm just saying that anybody can get hot for a few games.
Quick Thoughts. LaQuinton Ross looks a bit lost right now. His ballhandling is gone, and his confidence followed it right out the door. Unfortunately, it looks like his shooting may be out looking for the both of them right now. ... As poorly as the Buckeyes shot, they were still in the game right down to the final minutes. They had no business being in the game in the second half, but they scrapped and fought and played solid defense. Except for those in-bounds plays, of course. ... Ohio State is getting far too little out of Aaron Craft's drives. He isn't finishing, and the shooters that he is finding aren't either. Too often his penetration ends up being a wasted possession, which is unfortunate because half of the process is being done very well, but it's the second half of the process which determines the overall success. Talent/Skill.
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