First Thoughts From the Buckeyes' 63-56 Win at Nebraska
By Tony Gerdeman
Blowouts on the road don't come easy in conference play unless you are either a very good team, or you are playing a very bad one. Those descriptors don't necessarily fit either of these two teams because Ohio State is merely pretty good, and Nebraska only pretty bad.
The result was a seven-point win on the road, which is about right. Yes, the Buckeyes are more than seven points better than the Huskers, but they're not so good that they can keep the home team from making a run or two during the course of a game.
Even when Nebraska was leading in the first half, there was really very little doubt that Ohio State would again build up a comfortable lead, and against the Huskers, comfortable only needs to be seven points.
It wasn't a well-played game – both teams shot under 40% – yet the Buckeyes kept Nebraska at arm's length despite Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft combining to shoot 10-30 from the field and 0-7 from three-point range.
Any win on the road is a good win, even if it doesn't bring a smile to your face while it's happening.
Mr. Perfect. Lenzelle Smith started the game's scoring by drilling a three-pointer, and perhaps we should have taken that as a sign that the aggressive Lenzelle was in the house tonight.
Smith was the game's high scorer with 21 points, and he did it on 6-6 shooting from the field. His efficiency was amazing, as scoring 21 points on just six shot attempts is pretty rare.
This was Smith's first 20-point game of the season, and maybe coincidentally, his one rebound was a season low.
This is the Lenzelle Smith that could help get the Buckeyes pretty deep into the Tournament, but there's just no telling if he is going to show up like this from night to night.
Don't get me wrong, nobody is asking him to shoot 6-6 every night, or score 21 points, but taking four shots in a game, as he had the previous two games, is just too passive.
I do have to wonder if his lack of rebounding was because he was more focused on scoring, or if it was because he didn't need to pick up Amir Williams' slack?
Motivational Peaking. Amir Williams' eight rebounds in this game were two short of his season and career high, and his 14 rebounds over a two-game stretch is a career high.
It had been 10 games since Williams played at least 20 minutes, yet he played well enough in this game to log 28 minutes. Not only did he grab eight rebounds, but two of them were on the offensive end. Granted, he did go 0-0 from the field, but he shot 7-8 from the free throw line.
I would say that his play earned him some more minutes, but you still never really know what you're going to get from him. He provided very little in the second half, and he has yet to look comfortable attempting any type of move that isn't a dunk, and he only looks comfortable doing that about a third of the time.
It can be painful to watch him grab an offensive rebound and try to gather himself and go back up with the ball. His success rate is nil. Sure, he got to the foul line four separate times on shot attempts, but he needs to start turning those into three-point plays.
It's not going to become a regularity this year, but it needs to next year. Ohio State is going to need points from everybody once Deshaun Thomas leaves, and that includes their starting center whose career-high scoring total is just eight points.
Missing in Action. Deshaun Thomas missed 12 of his 18 shots on the night, and against Nebraska, that's okay. However, a lot of those misses were unnecessary. Too often he forced shots that were contested and just weren't good looks. The fact that he normally makes those shots speaks to his ability, but his shot selection was much better against Wisconsin, and you see the difference in the results.
The crazy thing is that it's hard to ask him to take better shots, because better shots may not be available. For this team to perform well, Thomas has to score, and to score, he has to shoot.
Better shots would certainly help him, and he's been concentrating more in the post, but it's a proven fact that he knows what he's doing. He's one of the best scorers in the nation, he's earned a little bit of freedom.
If you want to be concerned about something, be concerned about his 3-13 shooting from three-point territory over the last four games. That shooting will need to return to him if the Buckeyes are going to beat either of Michigan or Indiana next week.
Lock Down. There was a point late in the second half when Ohio State's one-time 15-point lead had been cut down to just seven points with 3:39 left in the game. What was a 53-38 game was now a 58-51 game just six minutes later.
From the point where Dylan Talley hit a jumper to make it 58-51, the Ohio State defense put the Huskers on lock down and didn't allow another field goal until David Rivers hit a meaningless three-pointer with eight seconds to play, making it 62-56.
Ohio State's scoring will come and go, but they should always be able to rely on their defense. As we saw late in the game when the Buckeyes' scoring was absent, the defense stuck around to finish things out. It won't be the last time they'll need to do that.
Quick Thoughts. I thought Aaron Craft had a tremendous all-around game. No, the shot wasn't falling, but he was aggressive with the ball and this was also one of his best games as a distributor. ... You can't throw no-look passes to Amir Williams just yet, so it's best not to try. ... LaQuinton Ross hit a bail-out three-pointer as the shot clock was buzzing in the first half, and it was the first time that I truly felt like he could be somebody that might be relied upon at some point this season. ... Aaron Craft caused a couple of five-second calls in this game. He is the defensive equivalent to an older sibling putting his finger within a millimeter of your face and saying, "I'm not touching you" over and over. It's incredibly annoying. ... Ohio State gave up 15 offensive rebounds. I've been conditioned by Jim Foster to think that offensive rebounds are overrated, and they probably are. But I bet they aren't overrated in losses.
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