Engineering a Trap

By Johnny Ginter on February 17, 2011 at 2:24a
The joke is that his butt is bigPardon Sully for butting in

Tuesday's win over a scrappy Michigan State team that put up much more resistance than expected provided a much needed confidence booster for Ohio State after their first loss of the season last Saturday against Wisconsin. Many of us might've been hoping for a blowout on Tuesday, but OSU showed that they can defend a close lead against a talented (if completely out of order) team down the stretch. They also showed that they could make critical defensive adjustments at halftime to help them maintain their control of the game, and that William Buford can go off for 20 plus anytime, anywhere.

So overall it was definitely a very positive win, but a few worrying issues did arise: Jared Sullinger was frustrated all game, as he was against Wisconsin. Sully did manage 11 points, but was a non factor on the glass, and that is something that OSU can ill afford to have happen. John Diebler, though he made a few very important threes, is having difficulty creating shots for himself. The Diebster actually has gone 8/20 from behind the arc in his past four games, which is certainly not terrible but well below his season average of .467% made; in comparison William Buford has gone 10/20 from three in that same time period. David Lighty has been sporadic at best on offense, scoring a decent 12 points against MSU, but only having two made field goals against Wisconsin.

Looming on Sunday is a game at Purdue. Purdue, you'll remember, is the current #2 team in the Big Ten who also had the pleasure of getting completely destroyed by the Buckeyes when they visited the Schott on January 25th. It is also a team that I am predicting will possibly beat the Buckeyes if they don't make some adjustments to their game.

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I should point out that I made a similar prediction about Indiana during football season and that turned out, uh... badly. Apples and oranges to be sure, but I just want to point out that I'm not trying to anoint OSU as a bad basketball team (maybe a tired one, though).

A lot has been made of Jared Sullinger's promise to come back for his sophomore season, and honestly I'm one of the people who thinks it'll happen, but I also think that promise should be taken with a giant grain of salt. He's been visibly off his game at times in the past few games, and I think he's starting to feel some of his limitations right now as a player. He's still very, very, very good of course, but to counter any frustration the first thing that I feel needs to happen on Sunday is that OSU involves Sully early and often. Matta and company attempted to do that at the beginning of the second half of the MSU game with some success, but at that point Sully was already in some uncharacteristic foul trouble. The initial matchup between JaJuan Johnson and Jared Sullinger was a push offensively, and the game on Sunday might hinge on who has the most consistent game. Since Purdue really doesn't have anyone with a combination of size and skill to match up with Sully outside of JaJuan, it'll be important to win the paint as early as possible.

Secondly, John Diebler needs to start finding more open shots on the perimeter. This is more than a little ironic, because just last season many were calling for him to drive inside more often. The difference this year is twofold: OSU now has an inside scoring threat in Sullinger, and Diebler has become much, much more consistent from the three than he had been in previous seasons. His overall offensive rating (as listed by Ken Pomeroy's stats), is now third in the country overall; when they guy gets the ball and shoots it, he has become very, very good.

With that said, Diebler's main issue right now is that he's having difficulty getting shots. Tuesday against Sparty was the first time in a month he had attempted more than 5 three balls in a game. In those six games he was highly efficient, going 13/26, but making a high percentage of shots doesn't mean quite as much when you aren't making more than 3 of them a game. Simply put: if Sullinger is getting bottled up inside, William Buford can't be the only guy making perimeter shots.

Finally, the Buckeyes need to stay out of foul trouble. One of the defining characteristics of this team is its ability to keep their opponents away from the charity stripe and themselves from being in danger of fouling out. Against Michigan State, however, Sully got into trouble with 4 fouls, and against Wisconsin it was even worse, with Buford and Craft almost having to sit the bench. Admittedly, for most teams this wouldn't be seen as a huge issue, but for Ohio State this can be especially worrisome due to the very short bench they play with. On the road at Purdue, with some possible home field home cooking, it will be vital that the Buckeyes are able to keep everyone out of any kind of trouble.

Of course, like with the Indiana game, I could be completely wrong about this. Ohio State could come out, do none of the things I've suggested they do here, and still win by 20 points. Still, if the Buckeyes want to regain their midseason form against a tough opponent on the road, they're going to have to work twice as hard against some tired legs and the grind of the Big Ten season to get back to being as dominant as they are capable of.


Comments Show All Comments

BucksfanXC's picture

Alex all the things I subconscieniously think/feel, you write about in depth. That should be the job description of all bloggers I think. Great post. A+

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

Leanenaud's picture

Agree about Sullinger. Been a completely different player the past two games. Not even trying for rebounds when he's under the rim, or being completely absent. Fatigue possibly? Frustration definitely! Hope he turns it around come tourney time.

jfunk's picture

So what you're saying is...


Scotch: It may be too early to drink it, yes; but people it is never to early to think about it.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Teams seem to be focusing now on Sully as 1 and Diebs as 1A to stop.  It seems teams have figured out how to successfully bring help on Sully and guard Diebs outside the arch.  This often allows Buford to show off his NBA style shots and for Lighty to carve them up, albeit a bit out of control at times.  Never mind Craft who isn't a slouch.  Teams playing against tOSU are giving it their all.  They muster every ounce of effort against us and I think that pace is starting to wear on these young guys.  I would love to see Thomas in more and someone else who can handle the rock, maybe Sibert, in the games for longer periods of time not only for the experience but to give the others some rest.  It scares me when Craft gets in foul trouble and we bring Dallas in at the end of games.  Dallas is too easy to get to the foul line where we don't want him.

The_Lurker's picture

I'll go ahead and disagree about Sullinger having two off games in a row. I agree that he had an off game against Michigan State, but he was fine against Wisconsin, dropping 19 points with 12 boards and shooting 7-of-12 with a block, a steal and only one turnover and one foul. He was also fouled at least twice while shooting and it wasn't called. I thought they should have gone to him more than they did, but by varying the way they do it.  He should be used more on the high pick and roll when Craft is in (IMO).

Johnny Ginter's picture

he had a good second half against wisconsin, but he did start off pretty slow in that game. with both moore and johnson putting up monster numbers, i don't think the bucks can afford sully starting off slowly

The_Lurker's picture

His slow start (IMO) was a product of not pounding the ball inside, but we went to that early in the second half and it was successful. If I recall correctly, he did contribute in the first half of that game from a rebounding perspective (unlike the MSU game). I think he had 7 or 8 rebounds at the half in Madison.

It's kind of like the perceived absence of Diebler. I've seen the guy wide open any number of times the past several games, especially early in the possession. But, if there is no recognition by Buford/Craft (and no timely pass), there will be no 3-bler. And I would argue that, like Diebler, if you're going to go inside to Sully, do it early in the shot clock. Don't pass it around the perimeter and then try going inside in the closing seconds when the kickout option isn't feasible.

We seem to be at our best when we are aggressive offensively and know how we are going to attack before we get into our half court offense. The last few games it seems as if the Buckeyes are just reacting to whatever the defense is doing and looking for options rather than coming in with a set attack in mind and then adjusting if it's not there.

Still, with the competition level the way it's been for the last three games, it's hard to get overly concerned about going 2-1 at Minny, at Wisky and vs. MSU.

dmurder's picture

Well personally I think the other 4 players on the court need to feed sully the ball more. The last three games we have gone away from forcing the ball down low? I personally have one knock on sullinger. The kid flops alot, he is constantly falling on the floor. For someone as big as himself that shouldn't be the case, it actually looks funny.

Now, he is probably pissed off, and doesn't know what else to do because he gets hacked alot.

Diebler needs to play on the same side as sully. Pass the ball to sully, sully pass back out, pass the ball to sully, sully pass the ball back out. Do this at least three times till one of them is either wide open, or has great postion down low.

Deshaun Thomas where are you? Kid comes in for the illni game and hasn't been seen much since. He needs to get playing time!

Craft is great he does make stupid fouls every game, but then again he steals the ball 4 times a game. So i will take the good with the bad, now if he can just get down that three point shot. Also, I love his dribble drive pull up jumper.

Mr. David is a defensive nightmare! His shooting is about average, but he is a man among boys. I love the way he took roe to the bucket.

WB = is my MVP. He plays like he is in the NBA. Mr. consistent.

"We have always had the best damn band in the land, now we have the best damn team in the land"- Jim Tressel 1-03-03

btalbert25's picture

I haven't noticed Sully flopping to much, but I did see him get tackled a few times against MSU.  He was getting beat to hell in that game.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Diebler needs to play on the same side as sully. Pass the ball to sully, sully pass back out, pass the ball to sully, sully pass the ball back out. Do this at least three times till one of them is either wide open, or has great postion down low.

 I think teams have figured out how to stop this by either filling the passing lanes or something.  I just don't see the opportunity being there to do this.  I've also seen the ball get passed down to Sully on that thrid try and by the time that happens the double team is already there in position and Sully gets the ball stolen.

I will 2nd your assessment of WB so far.  Maybe not MVP but I love the way he is playing on the offensive side of the ball.



Normal Buck's picture

Indeed, let's see some more Deshaun Thomas.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Lots of talk about the offense, which I'm not really worried about. The Buckeyes got 67 in the dead-zone Kohl C. and then 71 three nights later against a scrappy, desperate MSU club. Not a particularly high average, but they did it while having two unusually poor shooting games in which numerous shots seemed to dip into the rim and pop out, etc. In the FH against MSU, they missed a bunch of good looks.

The offense is pretty much unstoppable: opponents can go all out to contain Sully and Diebs, but then they'll get burned by Buford, Lighty (who will be back in full form soon enough; these things are cyclical), Craft, or even Thomas.

The bigger concern for me is the breakdowns on defense. They seem to play tougher on the ball than they do away from it. Against Wisc, they allowed too many good 3pt shot looks at a point in the game when it was obviously the Bagers main means of coming back (this was caused partly by the moving screens, of course). Against MSU in the 1H, they kept losing guys on the baseline, giving up easy layups (contrary to Izzo's whining, that's partly why Ohio State could get neutral-to-unfavorable officiating and yet still get to the line much more than MSU: many of the Spartans' inside buckets were relatively uncontested layups/dunks). If the Buckeyes can fix this, they will be dominant again, IMO.

An added factor is Craft: he has been a little spotty of late, but he's a true frosh playing PG. He's tough kid, though.    

slippy's picture

So I've never been a Dallas fan...but honestly he's played pretty damn well in the past few games.  He never forces anything, doesn't shoot until he's within 5 ft (and has made almost everything in B10 play)and he is more of a defensive presence than Sully has been.  I'd like to see more of him (a little bit more...not talking 35 mins from him).

DotThei's picture

Great analysis. For me, Sully goes based on where he gets the ball. When he's getting the ball outside the paint, he's much less effective. This is a question of technique and timing from the entry pass. I believe he needs to be far more patient in getting the rock. As for the men on the perimeter, the Buckeyes have a tendency to stand around, waiting for someone to break their man off the dribble. They get away with it because they are the most talented team in the league.


buckeye33's picture

Yes !!! Sully early & often.  Diebler cannot hit a shot if he is not's purely catch & shoot or it's a miss.  Lighty ...PLEASE do not shoot the 3 ball...I can hear a collective groan just when you are about to launch that shot.  Craft doing well, like when he can penetrate & open either the big man or kick it out. Buford can always be counted on for points & his D has really improved.  Let's hope like football...a loss to Whisky & then undefeated.

buckeyedude's picture

I've always worried about the offense once Sully gets in foul trouble. He needs help on the boards too. He can't do it all.

I don't think I've ever seen a kid hustle as much as Craft. He has to be a coaches dream. I like watching him play as much as Sullinger.

I also agree with Slippy on Dallas. Would like to see him in and let Sully rest every now and then. I think we fans expect way too much out of Sullinger sometimes. The kid is just a freakin' freshman.



BuckAlum75's picture

I have some different observations.  

Diebler is evidently being coached to NOT shoot the three, especially early on the shot clock.  Replay the Wisky game, and you'll see plenty of times where an open shot was passed up.  Even after 6 passes around the horn, Diebler will pass to Buford or someone else, to take the 3-pt shot.  Evidently the coaches want anyone-with-a worse-shooting%-than-Diebler to take the 3-point shot.  Earlier in the season, Diebler hit 9 in a row... however, with only 3 attempts vs Wisky, it would take how many GAMES before he would have even 9 ATTEMPTS?  

The failure to take and hit (at almost 50%) an early three (re the shot clock)  has another "benefit" namely, that Sullinger gets to experience a full 30 seconds of mugging by multiple thugs on almost every offensive possession.  Does anyone wonder why the freshman is not doing so well?  Can the coaches figure out a way for Sullinger to be mugged even more?  

Lastly, Wisky had only 2 guys with 10+ ppg and some coach (?) decided to play a D that let Wisky's top scorer to be left open to hit 27 or however many points he would like to have.  The Ohio State guards were busy whirling around to double-team every 6 ppg bum, leaving Wisky's top scorer "yeah, let's see whether you can score 30 or 40 or 50 points."  

If this continues there will be early exits in both the B1G and NCAA tourneys.