First Thoughts From Ohio State's 68-60 Win Over Michigan State
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With the win over #4 Michigan State on Sunday, the Buckeyes go from 1-7 against ranked teams this season to 2-7. They are also now 2-1 against Top Five teams at home.
It's all in how you look at it.
The Buckeyes have had their struggles this season, and those struggles continued in this game as well. Except this time, they found a way to actually get the win.
The fact that Deshaun Thomas couldn't find his shooting stroke in this game and Ohio State still managed to score enough points to get the win was a result of smart offensive strategy and stellar free throw shooting.
There were plenty of times when the Buckeyes could have given up and given in. Going down by nine points on Michigan State's first possession of the second half was one such opportunity. But it didn't happen.
Ohio State turned the game completely around in the second half with an "enough is enough" type of reaction that has been missing too often this season.
Now with three regular season games remaining, they need to turn the Spartan win into a momentum builder. Though a loss at Indiana is almost a guarantee, so there's only so much momentum a win over Michigan State can bring.
The Best Player on the Court. That was Aaron Craft. His 21 points were a career high, and he did it by relentlessly attacking the basket.
He treated Keith Appling like a piece of gum. He chewed him up, then stuck him under his desk. Appling finished with three points on 1-6 shooting.
Craft's plus/minus for the game was +13. Appling's was -13. You might say there was a slight correlation.
When the game was in doubt, Craft went to the basket like he was drawn to it; like he was physically pulled to the rim by an unseen force.
It was an Aaron Craft that we have only seen a few times this season, but it was good to know that he's still in there. The shooting is a bit of a lost cause this season, and even he knows it. But he can still get to the basket when he wants, and the shots are falling.
There is no reason for him to go back to being passive. He was Ohio State's best opportunity to score in this game, and that's not going to change too much the rest of the season.
Searching For a Shot. Adreian Payne is never going to be a good matchup for Deshaun Thomas. For one, Thomas really can't get a shot up over him; and for two, it isn't much easier to score down low against him either.
I wasn't surprised to see Thomas force a quick shot early, because that's what he's done for the last month or so. The later it gets in the season, it seems like he is less inclined to work for a good shot. He still does it, but he settles for poor looks more often than he did earlier in the season.
Thomas ended up shooting 4-16 from the field and 2-7 from three-point range. He made most of his shots that came with a good look, the key moving forward is to get him better looks. However, he can certainly help himself with that.
Defensively, I have no idea why Payne only took 10 shots. He has too much game to not shoot more. Though you have to give Thomas credit, Payne was exhausted in the second half from chasing him around. There's no doubt that contributed to Ohio State's win as well.
It was like Payne just took 10 rounds of body shots, and didn't have anything left for the final two.
They Am What They Am. This was a perfect example of what Ohio State is this year. They scored 30 points in the first half, and trailed by six points in doing it. The shooting comes and goes, and the interior defense shows up when it can.
There was a 20-point swing in the second half, because when the Buckeyes are playing well, they can play with anybody. When they are going to play well, however, is anybody's guess. They are essentially Wisconsin without the shooters.
This is what they are. It probably won't ever be great, but it can still be pretty good, and this came with Ohio State's best player playing one of his worst games.
Remember, an ugly win for the Buckeyes counts the same as a pretty win for the Harlem Globetrotters.
Searching For a Second Shooter. Too often there are no grassy knolls for the Buckeyes, which means there is only a single shooter.
Ohio State was 5-18 from three-point territory. Sam Thompson is actually proving to be one of the team's more consistent shooters, and he's not all that consistent.
When one of your best 18-foot shooters is your backup center, there are going to be issues. (I feel like I wrote this exact same thing last year.)
Aaron Craft's shot has succumbed to rigor mortis. It's stiff as a board and it's not going to come back to life this season. If Lenzelle Smith isn't shooting well, then he has to do a lot of other things to warrant his minutes.
We got to see quite a few kickouts for open three-point looks in this game, which we haven't seen much of this season. Perhaps more of that, which comes when Craft and Shannon Scott drive, will allow the Buckeyes to get better looks. Assuming it would even matter.
Quick Thoughts. I thought Shannon Scott really added something in this game, but I was pretty surprised to see that his plus/minus was -1. ... The Buckeyes only had eight assists, but that's because they were so successful taking the ball to the basket. They need to continue that. The assists will come when the post players and perimeter shooters can convert the kickouts. ... This team is still doing stuff that it shouldn't, such as running a pick and roll with Amir Williams and then dishing it to him as he half rolls. That's just never going to give enough of a positive return this season and it should be scrapped. Last time out, I talked about empty possessions, that's generally going to be an empty possession every single time. ... I really liked the look with Sam Thompson in the post. He can elevate for any shot he wants. It was a good way to get him another shot that isn't either a three-pointer or a dunk. ... Shooting is the easiest and the hardest thing to do in basketball, but some players make it harder than it needs to be. ... Aaron Craft was one of the best players in the country in this game. If the Buckeyes are going to make some postseason noise, he's going to have to keep that up.
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