Five Things We Learned in a Loss to Michigan and the Big Ten Tournament
By John Porentas
1) When Shannon Scott is playing to what the OSU coaching staff believes is his potential it takes an extraordinary performance to beat the Buckeyes. Scott finally, FINALLY, played the way Thad Matta thought he could play and it was a sight to behold. A positively amazing shooting night by the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes, but they needed every one of their 12 three-pointers to finally beat OSU. Scott was 7 of ten from the field including four of six from three point range and was incredibly disruptive on the defensive end of the court. He registered a game-high three steals and game-high six assists to go with his scoring. If Scott can come close to that kind of production going forward the Buckeyes are going to be a scary team in the NCAA tournament.
2) LaQuinton Ross is on fire and could carry this team a long way yet this March. As he did last year, Ross is playing his best basketball at tournament time He has become the go-to scorer that has been missing all year for the Buckeyes. He isn't just scoring. He's also crashing the boards effectively, and most significantly, his defensive intensity has picked up dramatically. Still, it is his scoring that is the most welcome aspect of his improvement for a team that has been challenged to score all year.
3) Even though the Buckeyes are finding a little offense, it is still their defense that will carry them. That was never more evident than in the Nebraska game when the OSU press was responsible for a great comeback win. The offensive improvements in Ross and Scott will take some of the pressure off the defense but it will still be the strength of this team.
4) Lenzelle Smith has to come around on offense. Just a little scoring from Lenzelle would have turned the Michigan game. A 1 for 7 shooting night that included 0-4 from three was devastating. If he doesn't demonstrate he can knock down shots teams will play off him to double Ross or even Scott. The Buckeyes need Smith to make some shots if they are to make any kind of NCAA tournament run. Absent a turnaround by Smith, the Buckeyes will need more offense from either Sam Thompson or Amir Williams to make any kind of deep run in the tournament.
5) If nothing else, this team showed tremendous heart in all three games they played in Indianapolis. We all like to talk about scoring and rebounding and assists and steals, but team chemistry can be as important as talent when it comes to producing those points, rebounds, assists and steals. The Buckeyes looked like a team that was playing together for their entire stay in Indianapolis, something that was missing from time to time this season. Team chemistry has been a hallmark of Thad Matta's teams. If they can keep what they found in Indy they will be much, much better off for it.
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