First Thoughts From Ohio State's 63-52 Win Over American
by Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There will be some words spent on the aesthetics of this basketball game, but if you're an Ohio State fan, you have to love what you got from center Amir Williams in this one. Regardless of how pretty these particular 40 minutes may or may not have been, there were some things that were easy on the eyes, and one of them was Williams' game.
However, the way the Buckeyes shot – 20-56 from the field (35.7%) – was on the opposite end of beautiful. They were 3-16 from three-point land, which is an improvement from the 3-18 they shot against Marquette, but it's still terrible.
Overall, Thad Matta would have much preferred a clear and decisive win, rather than a win where an overmatched opponent stays at arm's length for the entire contest. The season is still early and the Buckeyes are still trying to figure out who they are this year. They're also trying to find an offense. Once they figure out the former, they'll stand a much better chance of finding the latter.
The Player of the Game. I've been critical of Amir Williams several times in the past, so when he plays well, it doesn't go unnoticed. While there were still some of the same issues catching passes and finishing, once he had the ball in his hands, he looked as comfortable as he ever has. He hit a couple of half hooks, and they looked routine. He also had a turn around shot into the face of a defender that worked. I think that might get blocked most of the time against like-sized opponents, but I was just impressed that he had that in his game.
Williams scored 16 points on 6-9 shooting. The points are a career high, as were the field goals made and attempted. He also finished with seven rebounds, a block and two steals. Perhaps most importantly, he only had one foul. He also made 4-5 free throws, and is 14-17 on the season. The fact that he is making his free throws will give Matta reason to keep him in the game in certain situations.
Granted, this particular performance was against American, so there isn't a projection for what this means down the road. However, Williams has scored in double figures in just three games in his career, and two of them have been in the Buckeyes' last three contests. There is something here, it would seem.
Fall In Love With Ugly. It might be time to come to terms with the idea that there aren't going to be a lot of pretty games for the Buckeyes this year. That doesn't mean there will be fewer wins, it just means they probably won't stay on your DVR as long as they used to.
Obviously, shooting is an issue for the Buckeyes so far, and the guy who was thought to be their most consistent shooter – LaQuinton Ross – is so cold right now that SEC football refuses to travel to him.
There is an inherent problem with being a jump-shooting team when you don't have any great jump shooters. Fortunately, each of the Buckeyes are individually talented enough to get their shots off, but unless they start falling, what good is it?
Are the Starters Too Quiet? I consider Ohio State to have six starters, with Sam Thompson being that sixth starter. In tonight's game, four of those six starters combined for just six field goals made. That's not enough. LaQuinton Ross was 1-7, Lenzelle Smith was 1-4, Aaron Craft was 2-9 and Sam Thompson was 2-6. They scored a combined 22 points, and five of Craft's nine points came from the free throw line.
Each of Ohio State's perimeter players has the ability to shoot the ball, though Craft has clearly had his struggles. None of them are incapable of hitting shots, but they are each incapable of being high-volume and consistent. There is just too much up and down when it comes to this team's ability to shoot the ball. Hot streaks are always possible, but the Buckeyes may want to wait until March to find and capitalize on their own hot streak.
There is a Depth Issue. No, I'm not talking about Thad Matta's bench, I'm talking about the way the Buckeyes drive the ball too deeply, and either get the ball stripped, charge into a prone defender or get their shots blocked by the opposing center.
This is one of the areas where LaQuinton Ross is struggling this season. In the off chance he can actually get a shot off following a drive, his shot either gets blocked or he charges – or both. I realize that his shot isn't falling, but a pull-up game might prove more effective than getting so deep that your options are completely eliminated.
This is an area where Marc Loving has a better understanding of the game, it would appear. Yes, Loving drove twice and could have been called for charging, but instead he drew two blocking calls. He also showed a nice pull-up game at the top of the paint.
Driving too deeply was an issue early in the season a year ago as well. Maybe this is just part of the overall process of figuring things out.
The Best At His Craft. For the first month or so last season, there were times when Shannon Scott was arguably the best point guard on the team. Aaron Craft eventually returned to form and proved to be the leader that he was always expected to be. However, with the way Scott is playing this season, I'm wondering if Craft is going to be able to overtake him again this year.
I'm not writing off Craft, because my feelings are more about how Scott is playing than Craft. I have no concerns about Aaron Craft. We know what to expect, and we know that he will deliver. Scott, however, continues to get better. In other words, I wouldn't expect too many people to be complaining about Thad Matta choosing to sign Shannon Scott over Trey Burke this next year or two.
Quick Thoughts. One way to keep Amir Williams from losing the ball on the pick and roll is to continue throwing him the alley oop instead. At least that way he has no chance to put the ball on the deck and try to gather himself. … Aaron Craft has no desire to shoot the three ball right now. I'll never understand how a guard can't develop a consistent jump shot by the time he is a senior. … Actually, guards should enter college being able to shoot. … LaQuinton Ross again sat for the final 13 or 14 minutes of the ball game, just as he did against Marquette. Marc Loving has again taken his minutes. I wonder if Matta would lose Ross completely if Loving took his place in the starting lineup. … I'm starting to think that Shannon Scott might have a triple double at some point this year – assuming the Buckeyes can hit enough jumpers in a game to earn somebody 10 assists.
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