Thad Matta must be feeling like Bill Murray in Groundhog's Day the way the early season is playing out for his Buckeyes. In what's becoming a disturbing trend, the team again failed to show up in the second half getting outscored 45-16 en route to a 65-46 ass whipping at the hands of Butler in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.
No, that was not a misprint. OSU was outscored 45-16 in the second half wasting a 30-20 halftime lead.
The Buckeyes started strong continously feeding Kosta Koufos and Othello Hunter down low against the undersized Bulldogs. The two scored 14 of OSU's first 20 points as the Buckeyes built a 20-9 lead with 8 minutes left in the half. The lead would swell to 30-17 on a David Lighty jumper with 1:32 left.
OSU had a chance to increase the margin after getting the ball back with :23 but the Buckeyes continued their pathetic play out of timeouts as PJ Hill was called for carrying the ball leading to an AJ Graves 3 pointer at the buzzer trimming the Buckeye lead to 10. The three was Butler's first of the half after missing their first 15 attempts in a bit of foreshadowing for the second stanza.
Butler began the 2nd half by hitting 3/4 from downtown (finished 8/14) but the Buckeyes answered with 2 buckets apiece from Hunter and Koufos as Matta rightfully stressed the need to get the ball inside. The Butler threes got the crowd revved up but OSU still lead 38-31 with 13 minutes to play. Unfortunately for OSU, they would muster just 8 points over those final 13 minutes while surrendering 34 to provide the final margin.
Once again, ice cold shooting played a role in the collapse (29% FG in 2nd half) however a rash of turnovers proved just as costly. The Buckeyes committed a season high 24 miscues including 3 straight during Butler's 12-2 run that turned the 38-31 Buckeye lead into a 43-40 deficit with 8 minutes left.
The OSU backcourt was particularly useless as Jamar Butler took a season low 6 shots, making just 1 while John Diebler continued his poor shooting with a 1/6 effort. Worse yet, the duo combined for 10 turnovers against only 4 assists. Turnovers hadn't been a problem for OSU so far this season so playing their 5th game in 11 days might have finally caught up with this group, especially considering how short Matta's bench has been thus far.
On the positive front, Koufos was significantly more active finishing with 16 points, 7 boards and 3 blocks and David Lighty had a better night from the floor with a 5/9 effort, good for 12 points. Hunter chipped in with 10 and 7 but no other Buckeye managed double figures including Butler (5 pts) for the first time this season.
From my perspective, there are a few very troubling issues with this team. It seems they get absolutely zero easy baskets. The offense has to work for everything it gets and the inside game has only been fruitful against teams severely lacking in big bodies on the front line. Obviously, this is impacted by the wing players shooting poorly from the outside, particularly Diebler, allowing the defenses to sag on Koufos and Hunter. Another factor in the lack of easy hoops is the continuous zone defense look. It might limit some teams from the outside, protect Hunter and Koufos from fouls while helping hide our apparent lack of depth, but the set hasn't produced any breakaway layups to help boost the stagnant offense.
That said, I wonder if Matta might spend the next week of practice working on more man to man and look to incorporate the 3/4 court trapping defense used last season that helped create turnovers and/or force teams to initiate their offensive set with less time on the shot clock leading to lesser looks at the basket. The current matchup zone has been fairly effective considering just one opponent has broken the 70 point barrier but this team needs to find a way to score off the defense since the half court sets are so predictable.
One thing's for sure, Matta needs to get this team's attention during the break from game action because it's not acceptable to show up for just 50-60% of a game. They simply don't respond to adversity which flies in the face of what we've seen from every Matta squad to date. I'm not saying they quit when they get down, but they're certainly the softest team Matta has put out there since he arrived on the scene.
The good news is the Buckeyes face three straight cupcakes before facing Florida on 12/22 and should be no worse than 8-4 when the conference season begins January 3rd at Illinois.