First Thoughts From Ohio State's 68-62 Loss at Nebraska
By Tony Gerdeman
Welcome to rock bottom, where a six-point loss at Nebraska is pert near a moral victory for a Buckeye team that is spinning aimlessly, losing time while stuck inside some type of Bermuda Triangle of their own doing.
The switches and gauges make no sense, and the last good bearing this team had was over two weeks ago, which also happens to be the last time they played Nebraska. They won that game by 31 points. I'm a strong believer in home-court advantage in college basketball, but a 37-point swing takes two teams to make happen.
This is a team full of doubt and short on answers. Sure, ideally they know they could do better, but right now, they simply have no ability to erase the problems that they currently have.
Shooting isn't going to suddenly become a strength. Finishing at the basket isn't going to grow legs and walk into an Ohio State gym any time soon.
The only thing this team can do is not quit, and right now they may not be able to do that. Effort and defense are two things that shouldn't be slumping for this team, but they are. They're letting the rest of their flaws affect their one strength. Nebraska shot 50% from the field tonight, and that's not supposed to happen against a good defense.
This team is always going to struggle to score, we've known that since day one. But what we also knew was that this team would always be able to rely on its defense. It looks like we were dead wrong about that one, however.
I have complete faith in Thad Matta to turn things around, if a turn around is even possible. If he can't do it, then I have no problem saying that it couldn't be done. He just didn't have the leadership and direction necessary to keep things headed in the right direction.
Even the best pilot can lose his way in the Bermuda Triangle. Getting out of it, however, is what determines survival.
Things That Don't Make Sense. Ohio State just lost to a Nebraska team that was 0-4 in Big Ten play and had lost five games in a row by an average of 12.6 points per game. The Huskers were 2-13 (15.3%) from three-point territory, and had just six assists to 17 turnovers. Losing to a team with these numbers, as you can see, does not make sense. A team has to play awfully poor to lose this game, and that's exactly what the Buckeyes did.
They sent Nebraska to the free throw line 26 times and allowed them to shoot 21-33 (63.6%) from two-point range. The Buckeyes only scored 17 points off of the 17 Nebraska turnovers, while the Huskers scored 21 points off of 13 Buckeye turnovers. Nebraska simply executed better than Ohio State did, and they didn't execute all that well.
The Definition of Insanity. Okay, it's time to make a lineup change. I know Thad Matta doesn't want to admit that something is wrong with his team, but something is wrong with his team. The two point guard lineup has to go. It limits what this team is able to do at the moment, and there isn't much to limit.
Shannon Scott and Aaron Craft combined for 16 points, five assists and five turnovers. Those scoring numbers were skewed by points that came when the game was no longer in doubt. The saddest thing about this lineup right now, other than the shooting, is that with two point guards, the Buckeyes managed just two points on the fast break.
This was a team that went with a small lineup for the entire second half – meaning that anybody could have grabbed a rebound and led a fast break – and they could only manage two points? It's time for something new.
Lenzelle Smith was 4-12 from the field, and that was after starting pretty well. Both he and Scott played 32 minutes, and I'm not sure how many of those were quality minutes. Does Amadeo Della Valle deserve more minutes? As long as he can play under control, I don't see why not. Some might be worried about his defense, but let's not pretend anybody in Scarlet and Gray is locking anybody else down right now.
If there isn't a change soon, it would feel more like Matta is simply resigned to this team's fate, rather than confident that they will snap out of it. Obviously, this team will eventually start playing better simply due to the Law of Averages, but I think we all know the ultimate results that the current lineup will deliver.
Quick Thoughts. … It might be time to get Sam Thompson 35 or so minutes the rest of the way out. He needs to be involved moving forward, and that includes next year as well. Let him grow this season. … Shannon Scott was 2-6 from the field, scoring just four points. I found myself wondering what would happen if he stopped playing offense passively and set out to score 20 points in a game. It might be refreshing. It might be disastrous, but like Thompson, Scott needs to find himself because he'll be the lone starting point guard next season. … Is it okay that I'm already looking towards next season? What is the ultimate goal for this team? What is the possibility? They're not going to win a national championship. Is the goal now simply to reach the tournament? Sometimes that happens and expectations need to be lowered. But I hope you don't mind if I start looking towards a team that has more possibilities than this one. That being said, right when people start doubting Thad Matta is when his teams go on a postseason run. … Remember when LaQuinton Ross had an ability to drive the ball without turning it over? He was never great at it, but he still had a knack for getting to the basket. That knack is completely gone right now, and I don't know if it will come back. He's fairly easy to defend at the moment. Tonight it was pretty clear that he didn't have confidence in his shot, because he passed up several open threes. He was 4-12 from the field, so maybe he knew what he was doing. … It has not been a good couple of weeks for Aaron Craft. There have been too many forced shots at the end of these losses, and two few good shots in the first 38 minutes of each game. It's unfortunate for him and the Buckeyes that his weaknesses become so glaring when everybody else on the team has those same weaknesses. There's nowhere to hide, and everything else that he does loses value because the team also now needs him to score. When the team was shooting better and ranked in the top five, there was talk of Craft being an All-American. Now that the team's flaws are being seen far and wide and the team is losing, the “little things” that Craft does remain little, and his impact is lessened. It all leads to a senior leader who is pressing in all facets because his team needs him, and the results have been below the standard that we have come to expect from a truly great player. … Assuming you're reading this on a Tuesday, you might be interested to know that Spring Football starts six weeks from today.
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