Breaking Down the Kansas Loss

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Last updated: 12/23/2012 3:18 PM

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Men's Basketball
Breaking Down Ohio State’s Loss to Kansas
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was an all-around ugly game for the Buckeyes. They didn’t shoot well, they couldn’t defend Ben McLemore, they missed free throws and allowed Kansas to grab offensive rebounds off a number of their misses at the charity stripe.

With all that, they were still in the game until the final minutes, when Kansas was able to pull away for an eight-point victory that will leave Buckeye fans scratching their heads.

Ohio State shot 31-percent from the floor and went 8-of-31 behind the arc. There is no reason this team, which has only one established jumper shooter, should be hoisting half of its shots from behind the arc.

The problem for Thad Matta is the fact he has no low-post presence and a lack of shooters on the outside. That’s not a great combination, and it really puts a lot of pressure on Deshaun Thomas to carry them every night.

Here’s a break down of what we saw from each player on the court Saturday during Ohio State’s 74-66 loss to the Jayhawks.

The Starting 5

30 Evan Ravenel (6-8, Sr.) — Give Ravenel credit, he was out there battling on Saturday. Despite the fact he was giving up at least four inches to Kansas center Jeff Withey, Ravenel tried to spark the Buckeyes with some energy and aggressiveness, but it just wasn’t meant to be. That’s not the kind of game where Ravenel is going to be at his best. Even the great Jared Sullinger struggled against guys who were that much bigger than him, and it was obvious the Jayhawks wanted to get Withey the ball whenever Ravenel was on the floor. He played only 19 minutes, many of them because Amir Williams was in a little bit of foul trouble, and finished with three points and three rebounds.

Deshaun Thomas
Photo by Jim Davidson
Deshaun Thomas

1 Deshaun Thomas (6-7, Jr.) — It’s becoming harder and harder for Thomas to take over games because opposing defenses realize how much better he is than everyone else on his team, at least offensively. It reminds me of LeBron James on a few of those pretty scrappy Cleveland teams early in his career. Everyone knew James was going to get the ball and they would sag off other players in order to help keep LeBron from getting the looks he wanted. Eventually, the Cavaliers surrounded James with just enough guys who could hit those open outside shots, and they ended up with the best record in the NBA two years in a row.

Without those other guys making shots, it’s going to be impossible for Thomas to be the kind of player he is capable of being at this level. Now he’s not LeBron, even though he was compared to LBJ as a freshman in high school. Thomas is not a transcendent athlete who can get any shot he wants at any time, no matter who is defending him. His best plays are the pick and pop against a bigger guy or being posted up against a smaller guy down on the block. Kansas did a good job of defending both on Saturday. They used Travis Releford to chase Thomas around on the pick and pop plays and then brought Withey to trap him over the top whenever Thomas touched the ball down in the paint.

Sam Thompson
Photo by Jim Davidson
Sam Thompson

12 Sam Thompson (6-7, So.) — It looked like Thompson was in for a big day Saturday when he knocked down his first two threes of the game. His form looked great and it kept the Buckeyes in the game early when no one else was hitting shots. The problem for Ohio State is no one else ever really started hitting shots, and Thompson cooled off drastically, finishing 3-of-10 from the floor with three straight misses from behind the arc. He did have a few steals and a few rebounds, but if Thompson isn’t going to be an effective scorer, he needs to be a stat stuffer. With his length and athleticism, he should have 6-7 boards, 3-4 assists, a block and 2-3 steals every game. He also needs to work hard on becoming a better on-ball defender. His length is enough to bother shooters on the outside, but he is not always “glued in” the way he needs to be on that end of the floor.

Lenzelle Smith
Photo by Jim Davidson
Lenzelle Smith

32 Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (6-4, Jr.) — This was supposed to be Smith’s big coming out party against the team that knocked him and his teammates out of the Final Four last season, but that’s not at all the way Saturday’s game played out. Smith was fired up and ready to shoot the ball, but his shot was all over the place. For the most part, he kept firing short on the front of the rim, sometimes because he was a step or two behind the arc. There were a lot of factors that led to the Buckeyes losing this game, but if Smith could have knocked down a couple of those outside shots, it might have changed the momentum as things were slipping away from Ohio State in the second half. Smith’s passion was undeniable on the court Saturday, but passion doesn’t always equal points, which is what the Buckeyes really needed from him. Instead, he missed nine of his first 10 shots and finished 3-of-13 for the game, including an 0-for-7 mark from long distance.

Aaron Craft
Photo by Jim Davidson
Aaron Craft

4 Aaron Craft (6-2, Jr.) — With so many guys missing shots against Kansas, it’s really unfair to pick on Aaron Craft. He will get a bulk of the blame because he’s one of the leaders and most recognizable players on this basketball team. He’s been to a pair of Sweet 16s and a Final Four as one of Matta’s go-to guys, but certainly not on the offensive end. He hit his first three against Kansas Saturday but misfired on four of his next five. He finished with just seven points and three assists. He also had four turnovers and really seems to be off his rhythm at the offensive end of the floor. Maybe he’s thinking too much, maybe he’s lacking confidence or maybe he’s just not capable of being the No. 2 option for this basketball team. That never seemed like a fair expectation considering what he does at the other end of the floor. According to Matta, he was playing with a hip injury in the second half, which doesn’t surprise me because of the way he was diving all over the floor for loose balls.

First 3 Off the Bench

Shannon Scott
Photo by Jim Davidson
Shannon Scott

3 Shannon Scott (6-1, So.) — While Deshaun Thomas is clearly still the go-to guy on offense, it’s becoming apparent to just about everyone that Scott has to become part of this team’s identity at both ends of the floor. He gets his hands on so many passes at the defensive end and really gave the Buckeyes a spark off the bench in the first half. His speed caught the Jayhawks by surprise, and he was able to turn some of those turnovers and defensive rebounds into easy baskets at the other end. Scott scored 10 of his career-high 15 points in the first half, and hit the big three to cap Ohio State’s 14-0 run on Kansas before halftime. He also had six rebounds and four assists without turning the ball over, but Scott was just 1-of-6 from the floor in the second half. If there are positives to take away from this game, one big one would be the development of Scott is really starting to come into his own as a basketball player.

23 Amir Williams (6-11, So.) — The same could be said for Williams, who played by far his best basketball of the season on Saturday. Some guys look like world-beaters against smaller, lesser opponents only to fade when they match up against equal or better talent. Williams appears to be the exact opposite. When he number was called to match up with Withey on Saturday, Williams did more than just hold his own. He went out there and played with some energy and aggression we haven’t seen out of the sophomore all season long. Withey still got his rebounds, but he was not a force at the offensive end when Williams was on the floor. Withey even had a shot swatted back in his face when he tried to back Amir down on the lowpost. Williams finished with six points, eight rebounds and a pair of blocks in 20 minutes off the bench. It was the best 20 minutes he has ever given the Buckeyes, right up there with the game at Kansas last year, and his stretch at the end of the first half in that win over Syracuse. They need more of that guy and less of the guy who seems to just be going through the motions against some of these lesser opponents.

LaQuinton Ross
Photo by Jim Davidson
LaQuinton Ross

10 LaQuinton Ross (6-8, So.) — Matta gave Ross a chance on Saturday. The Buckeyes desperately needed someone who could put the ball in the basket, and unlike the Duke game down in Durham, Matta decide to use all his bullets. All of them except the moppy-haired Italian one. But Ross didn’t give them much of anything Saturday, and I’m starting to wonder if he’s not really built for the current role they have him in. Ross seems like a guy who might have benefitted from getting a few starts and some legitimate playing time during some of these lesser non-conference games. His confidence seems to be there, but not his understanding of the game. All of that could be erased, at least in terms of his value to the team, if he would just knock down his outside shots. He’s got great form and the ball always looks good coming off his hand, but Ross was 0-for-3 from long-range against Kansas and really didn’t give them any kind of spark in his nine minutes off the bench.

Emptying the Bench

33 Amedeo Della Valle (6-5, Fr.) — We didn’t get to see either Trey McDonald or Amedeo Della Valle in this game, which wasn’t a surprise. It seemed like maybe Matta should have throw Della Valle out there just to see if he could knock down a shot or two from long distance, but it’s easy to understand why he wouldn’t feel comfortable putting him in a game of that magnitude.

55 Trey McDonald (6-8, So.) — The same goes for McDonald, who hasn’t played a lot of important basketball for the Buckeyes. There was a moment when Amir picked up his second foul with six minutes left in the first half where I thought Matta might consider giving McDonald a chance. Ravenel had struggled against Withey and the Buckeyes needed to get to halftime without Williams picking up his third foul, but he decided to stick with his senior instead.

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