There was a point in the game where I thought the Buckeyes were actually going to pull this out. The score was 68-67 with around three minutes to go and Ohio State had the ball. This was a classic Thad Matta Big Ten Tournament, I thought to myself, and this is typical Matta stuff.
First Thoughts From Ohio State's 72-69 Loss to Michigan
By Tony Gerdeman
That lead didn't hold for long, however, but that still doesn't change my thoughts on the job Matta did with his basketball team in this game. Think back to Tuesday or Wednesday. How much confidence did you have in this team? Don't you have a little bit more confidence in them now?
Matta's teams don't always leave the Big Ten Tournament a better team than they were when they started, but this one has. It may not lead to a deeper run in the NCAA Tournament, but it should make people feel a little better about next season. Especially with the way Shannon Scott played today, and the way LaQuinton Ross has played all weekend long.
Of course, Scott on Thursday and Friday was much worse than the Saturday version, and consistency appears will always be a problem. But as we have seen these last two seasons, when Scott is at his best, he is an absolute difference maker and one of the more disruptive players in the conference.
More on Shannon Scott. This game was Shannon Scott's impersonation of Scoonie Penn, and it was pretty spot on. The only difference, however, was that Penn would have never gone the final 6:14 of the game without taking a shot like Scott did, especially when he just tied the game with a three-pointer.
There were times on Saturday afternoon when Scott absolutely carried the Buckeyes, and he looked more than happy to do so. I love seeing a point guard take one dribble inside the three-point line and put up a jumper with a hand in his face. If Scott can do that next season at a higher clip than he did this season, then the Buckeyes won't miss Aaron Craft as much as you might think.
I really believe that next year's team can do some damage if they have a point guard who can shoot. They might just have that in Shannon Scott.
The Aaron Craft Debate. Ohio State made their second-half run with Aaron Craft on the bench, which is also when they took their first lead of the game. The Buckeyes went on a 17-11 run with Craft out of the game, but Thad Matta was never going to keep him on the bench the rest of the way.
When he did come back in he missed two free throws and two three-pointers, but I'm only willing to give him grief for the final shot of the game. Both of his free throws were on line, and the second one was in and out. His first of two missed threes was in and out as well. The final shot, which wasn't even technically a shot, has to at least get near the rim.
Would Ohio State have won if Craft stayed on the bench? Who knows? There is no answer to this question, and if you think you have it, you don't. I've been as critical of Craft this season as you can be, but I can't fault him too much for the way the team finished. There are certainly better scapegoats to point at.
The Future of LaQuinton Ross. I don't know if LaQuinton Ross turns it up during tournament time because he's looking at leaving for the NBA or what. What I do know, however, is that if he comes back next season and plays every game with the same demeanor that he has had in the post season, he will greatly improve his draft stock.
There will always be a place on a roster for somebody who is tenacious on the boards and who can get fouled through that tenacity. What the NBA doesn't need, however, is an indifferent jump shooter who can sometimes disappear. The Buckeyes don't need that either.
This game gave a pretty good glimpse of just how good this junior class could be as seniors, provided they never have any wallflower moments and are always willing to get a little bloody.
What're You Gonna Do? When an opponent is hitting from three-point range, sometimes it doesn't really matter how well you play. That was the case in this game for sure, and it can't even be said that Ohio State played a great game. They certainly had moments of very goodness, but I'm not sure they ever approached great.
They played well enough to win, and they would have beaten most Big Ten opponents on this day. But with the Wolverines shooting 12-23 from three-point range, many of those with a Buckeye hand in their faces, there wasn't a lot that Ohio State could do. Scoring is just too difficult for OSU to have to do it freely and frequently. I think they're getting better at it though.
Quick Thoughts. ... Lenzelle Smith scored 15 points in the Big Ten Tournament, with just three points in each of the last two games. He was 1-7 from the field and 0-4 from three-point range. I always hate pinning a loss on a particular player, and I won't do that here. But I will say that the Buckeyes would certainly have won this with a better performance from Smith, who had several good looks. ... It was good to see Marc Loving hit a three-pointer. At least we know that he still can. I still have complete faith in him as a player down the road, but the Big Ten has not been kind to him. He'll get them back next year I think. ... Anybody else interested in seeing how the minutes break down at center next year? Trey McDonald has played more and more as this season has gone on, and if he continues to improve, I wonder if those numbers will ever tip in his favor. ... I'll just say again how fantastic Shannon Scott was. This game has to give him confidence moving forward. There's no reason the Buckeyes should ever have a point guard who can't do this on a nightly basis. I'm not asking him to shoot 4-6 from three every game, but I think 10 field goal attempts would be a good target for him next season.
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