First Thoughts - MSU

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Last updated: 01/19/2013 11:38 PM
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Men's Basketball
First Thoughts From OSU's 59-56 Loss at Michigan State
By Tony Gerdeman

It's not easy to win in the Big Ten, and it's even tougher to win on the road at the Breslin Center. But it's impossible to win there when a team is playing one against five.

Deshaun Thomas
Photo by Jim Davidson
Deshaun Thomas

Buckeyes not named Deshaun Thomas scored a total of 28 points in Saturday night's game. They were 9-27 from the field and hit 4-14 from three-point territory. They pulled down a total of 15 rebounds and had 13 turnovers.

Thomas, meanwhile, scored 28 points of his own, shooting 10-20 from the field, including 6-11 from three. He also had seven rebounds and just one turnover. To say that he kept Ohio State in this game would be an insulting understatement.

The Buckeye guards once again struggled from the field. Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith and Shannon Scott shot a combined 5-20 from the field and 3-12 from three-point range. If they shoot 35% from the field instead of 25%, they win. That's pretty amazing. If the guards had just shot slightly not as bad, the Buckeyes would have come away with a road win against a ranked Michigan State team.

The things that kept them from getting that win are not new, and not immune from striking again throughout the season. Poor shooting from the guards and unforgivable struggling from the free throw line (8-13 tonight) is what this team is too often. When they are not that team, they are tough to beat.

One Man Gang. Deshaun Thomas was tremendous in this game, but the one thing that always strikes me is how much pressure is on each and every one of his shots.

Because this team struggles to score, whenever they can get Thomas an open look, he has to make way more than he misses. If he is not hitting open shots, then the Buckeyes aren't going to beat the good teams. As the game goes on, each shot gets bigger and bigger.

Right now, I don't think he realizes how much pressure he has on each of his shots. But when your team is going to struggle and you start feeling like you're the only one who can score, each shot carries more weight, and every miss makes the next shot even more important.

If Ohio State doesn't want Thomas feeling the weight of this burden, they better find some scoring.

Who Does Number Two Work For? I've said in the past that there doesn't need to be a designated second scorer on this team, mostly because there isn't another player who can be counted on to score consistently. We saw that tonight with Lenzelle Smith being the second-highest scorer with just six points. That's not exactly the type of "number two" the Buckeyes need.

I think we can agree that when Smith is the second scorer, things run more smoothly. However, when he's not scoring, as he hasn't for a few games now, and he isn't rebounding the ball, then the returns are definitely diminishing.

I understand why Thad Matta plays Smith over Shannon Scott as much as he does – Scott can't shoot and Smith can. But when Smith isn't shooting, then that argument needs to go out the window.

Time for More Minutes. Despite the inexplicable final shot of the game, Shannon Scott needs to play more. No, he can't shoot, and yes, it is a problem. However, way more often than not, the Buckeyes thrive when he's in the game.

Ohio State went on a 15-0 run when Scott first entered the game, and that is certainly not a coincidence. He makes things happen, and he gives a gusty breath of life to the Buckeye offense when he's on the court.

Ohio State was stuck in their halfcourt offense before Scott got in the game, and they simply passed the ball around the perimeter without much direction. Once he came into the game, he put everybody in the next gear and they moved much better.

The beginning of each game and each second half feels like the Buckeyes are just trying not to let Scott's absence affect them negatively. Sort of like when a hockey team is killing a penalty, except this penalty is self-imposed.

I'm not saying that Scott should start, but I certainly don't think he should sit for nearly the first seven minutes of the second half like he did tonight. The longer he sits, the more pressure he'll feel to perform in the limited time that he has.

I don't think that he needs to just take Smith's minutes, he should also be taking some from Sam Thompson. Smith and Thompson should do more splitting than Scott and Smith right now. The "good news" is that either Smith or Thompson is going to give you a reason to play Scott more. After all, it's rare for them to both be playing their "A" games.

Having seen the results to this point, I don't think there's a reason that Scott should only play 21 minutes like he did in this game. You can't convince me that he shouldn't be at 30 minutes per night.

Lullable. With as poorly as this team shoots, and as inconsistently as they finish around the basket, it will be rare for this team to play a game without a scoring lull. There are just too many offensive issues to overcome against good defensive teams. We saw that tonight. Just imagine what the score would've been had Deshaun Thomas not been hitting the perimeter shot.

That all being said, this team was little more than a basket away from getting a big win having played as poorly on offense as they did. Michigan State didn't shoot that bad (44%), and outrebounded the Buckeyes by seven, yet barely came away with the win.

We're not talking moral victories here, but you have to at least recognize that better Buckeye teams have gone into Breslin and come out with much worse losses.

Quick Thoughts. The play of the game ended up being Shannon Scott's turnover following Aaron Craft's steal when the game was tied at 50-50. The Spartans turned it into a three-point play by Adreian Payne. The Buckeyes tied it up again with 58 seconds to play, but had they not turned it over initially, who knows how this game ends up. ... This was not Sam Thompson's best game. Standing around on defense, letting alley oops through his fingers, not converting drives. That's why we talk so much about his potential. ... I believe that opponents don't want Shannon Scott on the court, and I'm of the belief in any sport that when the other team doesn't want to see a specific player, then that specific player needs to be seen. There is no outstanding lineup to this team right now, so when a certain lineup pleases the opponent, it might be time to rethink that lineup. ... I was impressed that Amir Williams and Deshaun Thomas didn't get dominated down low, though it looked like they were going to early on. However, I pin much of that on the fact that Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne are two of the more frustratingly inconsistent players in the Big Ten. Both should be better than they are from night to night. ... I don't have a huge problem with Aaron Craft's baseline three towards the end of the game. Yes, you'd rather have Deshaun Thomas take that shot, but he's the one who passed the ball to wide open teammate. We're all adults here, that was a makeable shot. All you can ask for is an open look, and Craft took it. Let's not forget that Thomas missed a three-pointer just nine seconds earlier. ... Shannon Scott's final shot was not pretty, but Thad Matta told his players to expect to get fouled. That's what Scott was doing. However, his brain turned off any contingency plan and we saw the result. Chalk one up for Tom Izzo.

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