Buckeyes Finding New Ways to Put Up Points
By Rob Ogden
DeShaun Thomas was the best scorer on an average-to-below-average Ohio State offense last season.
Without him, there were a lot of question marks about how the 2013-14 Buckeyes would put the ball in the basket. But even without their leading scorer from a year ago, they're proving they just might be a better offensive team this year.
Thomas did it all for the Buckeyes a year ago. He averaged 19.8 points per game, nearly 10 points more than the team's second leading scorer.
He was the leading scorer in 29 of the Buckeyes' 37 games.
In a January loss at Michigan State, Thomas scored as many point by himself as the entire rest of team combined.
With Thomas leading the way last season, Ohio State averaged 70 points per game and shot 45 percent from the field. Through 12 games this year, the Buckeyes are averaging 75 points per game and are shooting 47 percent from the floor.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Granted, the competition is about to become more difficult as Big Ten play begins, but junior Sam Thompson said he believes the Buckeyes can be a better offensive team than they were a year ago.
"We're definitely different," Thompson said. "Obviously (LaQuinton Ross) is a great scorer, he can score from anywhere on the court. I think Q and DT are different types of scorers. I don't think we're as top-heavy as we were last year, we're a little more balanced. We have guys that are playing confident basketball right now and have played for a number of years in this program. I think we have a pretty good idea of the system."
After a very sluggish start to the year, Ross has turned into a consistent scorer for coach Thad Matta over the Buckeyes' past seven games.
During that span, Ross has averaged more than 17 points per game. He averaged 8 points a game last season.
Senior Lenzelle Smith Jr. has provided a big boost to the offense, as well.
Smith has scored in double-figures in seven of Ohio State's past eight games and has averaged nearly 15 points a game during that span.
Saturday night against Notre Dame, Smith was scoreless through 39 minutes of play, but added 9 points in the final 45 seconds to lead the Buckeyes to the come-from-behind win in Madison Square Garden.
Thompson said an extra year in Matta's system has made a big difference for guys like Ross and Smith.
"We know what we want to get out of our offense, and know where each other are going to be," he said. "We've all played with each other for a number of years and we have guys like Marc (Loving) who have come in and fit perfectly with our system. Knowing the system and being unselfish are a big part of it."
The Buckeyes currently have four guys averring in double figures, compared to just two a year ago.
Matta compared this team to the 2010-2011 team that featured David Lighty, Jon Diebler and Dallas Lauderdale.
That team lost leading scorer and national player of the year Evan Turner from the year before, but went 34-3 and was the No. 1 ranked team in the country for much of the season.
Without a dominate scorer like Turner or Thomas, teams have to find different ways to win, Matta said.
"You've got to be tighter and closer, you've got to work harder and more together," he said. "I like that that's kind of the makeup of this team right now."
The Buckeyes will put their perfect record on the line Friday night against Louisiana-Monroe before conference play begins Dec. 31 at Purdue.
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