Ready. Set. Slow.

By Chris Lauderback on January 6, 2013 at 1:00p

As any Ohio State fan with a pulse is painfully aware, yesterday’s disappointing 19-point loss at Illinois dropped the basketball Buckeyes to 0-3 against the only legitimate competition they’ve faced through 14 games overall.

Rotation players 2-8 haven't grown fast enough for Matta

Making matters worse – although admittedly against a small sample size – the Buckeyes appear to be regressing when it comes to showing up against top-flight opponents.

Two particular factors have plagued the losses, specifically, the lack of a consistent 2nd scorer and an inability to get key stops.

Unfortunately, those items have now been supplemented by an increased turnover rate in each of the three losses and now, after the debacle in Champaign, an incredibly slow and seemingly disinterested start to each half.

All four factors combined should force many, including myself, to ponder if the Buckeyes are truly regressing, or is the sample size too small, or could be watching a combination of both?

Regardless of your opinion on the question, there’s no getting around the fact Ohio State’s performances in their only three real tests have gone from bad to worse. And that should definitely be of concern to both fans and the team alike. 

Against Duke, the Buckeyes had their strongest showing in a big game, losing by five to an impressive Blue Devil squad in an arena where nearly a hundred consecutive non-conference foes had shown up and lost.

The Buckeyes, naturally, were hurt by the lack of a 2nd scorer as Craft and Lenzelle shot a combined 7/27 while the team combined to shoot 34% overall in support of Deshaun’s 16 points against constant double teams.

They did hold Duke to 30% shooting in the 1st half, committed just seven turnovers in a hostile environment and LaQuinton Ross teased us with nine points in 11 minutes, though he also foreshadowed some very loose handles. So, despite the loss, there were still some positives worth clinging to.

Three weeks later, Ohio State welcomed Kansas to the Schott with a chance to measure their improvement against another high-caliber opponent.

Deshaun is understandably frustrated with a lack of help

Ultimately, there wasn’t much to measure as the same flaws were exposed in an eight-point loss at home.

No consistent sidekick for Deshaun’s 16 points again bubbled to the surface, though Shannon Scott did have a career-high 15 points in only 25 minutes of action. That said, everyone knew he wasn’t a long-term solution to the issue and the two biggest candidates to fill the scoring void, Craft and Smith, again combined to clank it up, shooting a combined 5/22 with Smith missing 10 of 13 shots.

Ross was also ineffective. He scored four points on 1/5, his minutes were cut to nine and Thad yanked him a few times for mental errors at both ends of the floor.

Ross wasn’t alone in that category, however, as Ohio State turned it over 13 times, six more than at Duke. 

The recurring theme of inconsistent defense was also a dagger as Kansas shot a blistering 51% for the game and 45% from deep. The most concerning aspect of letting Kansas shoot such a high percentage was that Ohio State simply couldn’t match up with the Jayhawks athletically on the wing or down low. Their two post players each had 10 boards and their wings proved more physical and still consistently beat Buckeyes off the bounce.

Now, with one more chance to measure their big game growth after two weeks of trying to work out the kinks, the Buckeyes were not only victimized by the same three problems – no dependable 2nd scorer, loose handles, and spotty defense – but they added the new wrinkle of a ridiculously slow start to each half, looking absolutely unprepared for the intensity.

With those four factors at play, the Buckeyes got blown out by 19 on the road to a team that while very impressive, is still a cut below both Duke and Kansas.

The 2nd scorer problem was again at the forefront as Deshaun scored 24 points with no help. Craft did have his best performance against a good team with 11 points on 4/10 shooting along with four steals, a vast improvement over his combined 5/24 brickfest against Duke and Kansas with only one steal.

Already hurt by the turnover bug against Kansas, the Buckeyes kicked it up a notch in Champaign, coughing it up 16 times, nine more than they committed against Duke and thee more than in the Kansas game.

Ross is just one Buckeye suffering growing pains

The defense was again awful, though they specialized in allowing the two-point field goal as Illinois shot 14/19 from inside the arc (74%) in the 1st half and 65% for the game. At times, the Buckeyes were overwhelmed by athleticism, causing the high shooting percentage and a -11 result on the glass.

These three issues contributed to the slow starts to each half that gave OSU no chance to win.

The Buckeyes allowed a 25-11 run in the first 9:50 of the game, shooting 4/15 with six turnovers, missing 3/4 from the line and turning it over on their first two and last two possessions during the run. Basically, 75% of their possessions were empty.

Inexcusably, the Buckeyes, already trailing 37-25 at the break, came out flat to start the 2nd half, allowing eight straight points while shooting 0/3 with a turnover. The 8-0 run became part of what morphed into a 19-6 knockout punch, giving Illinois a 56-31 lead with 10:43 left in regulation.

Ohio State shot a dismal 2/12 during the spurt with Deshaun hitting 2/3 for four points while his teammates combined to miss all nine of their shots with four turnovers. The lone non-Deshaun points came from two Ross free throws.

Defensively, the Buckeyes let Illinois shoot 6/13 during the run, which isn’t awful but the fact they let them drain 3/4 from distance wasn’t pretty.

So now, with Ohio State just beginning the B1G gauntlet – which this week alone features a trip to West Lafayette to take on a Purdue team that just beat Illinois before facing Michigan at home Sunday – the team appears to be at a bit of a crossroads.

It’s put up or shut up in the B1G and with the same issues killing the Buckeyes against good teams, we’re going to find out a lot about them in the coming weeks. It's going to take significant strides from everyone in the rotation not named Deshaun and so far, we've seen a lack of both personal development and acceptable growth into larger roles have a negative impact on the lack of offensive efficiency, no 2nd scorer emergence and continued spotty defense. 

Can they patch up the holes making it impossible to beat good teams and allow them to challenge for a fourth straight regular season conference crown, or will the 2012-13 Buckeyes look more like the 2008-09 bunch that finished 5th in the conference, going 22-11 overall with a first-round exit in the Dance?

Right now, it’s looking more and more like the latter. But luckily for Thad and company, there are still a minimum of 17 more games to develop and work on solutions to the recurring themes costing them victories.

Ready. Set. Hope.


Comments Show All Comments

German Buckeye's picture

Didn't watch the game but from this write up, I get the impression the team has no fire and is wildly inconsistent - accurate?

BuddhaBuck's picture

Yes. You didn't miss anything. It was reminiscent of the Kansas game (this year).

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Doc's picture

They look like a JV squad. I'm hoping they turn it around, but not holding my breath.  I hope Thad has a great recruiting class coming in, because he is going to need it.

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ou88bocat's picture

I didn't watch all of the game, but to me, there's not an obvious leader of this team, and to me the team is full of complimentary players, there is really no other player that stands out or the opponent has to shut down other than DT. I'm beginning to question the coaching staffs ability to develop players...Thompson, McDonald, Williams, and Ross should be the core of this team and none of them contribute any meaningful minutes consistently!


mockjocks's picture

Agreed. Matta and staff really need to earn their paychecks this year. We've had the luxury of having multiple guys on the floor who could burn you from the outside, pretty much since the 06-07 team. Now we only have one, and he's a forward so no team is afraid of our guards. I have a problem with Chris Jent working on shooting mechanics to the level he has with Aaron Craft and Sam Thompson. Go back and watch the final four game against Kansas, and you can easily argue that Craft is the best plaer on the floor for OSU. His confidence now is at an all-time low, with each week getting worse.

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buckeyedude's picture

Hate to say it, but this year's Buckeye b-ballers are a one trick pony. Stop Deshaun and you beat the Buckeyes. Not surprised at all. Replacing Sullinger I knew would be next to impossible.



Buckifan4Life's picture

Agreed. To make things worse, Deshaun is an outside shooter and the Buckeyes cannot afford any cold streaks from him. I'm really disappointed in what seems to be just a bunch of role players and Thomas. Shannon Scott has showed some glimmers of hope, but the inside game for OSU is just a mess. I hope they can get some consistent inside scoring to open up the outside more for other shooters to make an impact.

tampa buckeye's picture

Relax.  If they can knock down some wide open three's they will be fine.  It will happen.  Long way to go.  The big ten will be tough on the road all year.  Win half your road games and all your home games and you will be atleast a #4 seed in march.

vball10set's picture

We'll win some we shouldn't and lose more than we have in recent years, but we should still be able to Dance in March. However, I agree that no leader has emerged, and this discourages me more than anything.

oregonianbuckeye's picture

My read on the bball team is not that it lacks leadership, but experience. Craft is the clear leader of this team, and the coaches have indicated on a number of occassions that they consider him almost an assistant coach. He speaks at every break in action, and is clearly the conduit between the coaches and the team. Matta even commented that he thinks that Craft is the smartest (in a basketball sense) player he's ever coached. I agree with Buckeyedude, that Thomas is the only offensive threat, and that is the biggest concern right now. Until they can rely on Smith, Scott, Craft, Thompson, and Q to score more consistently, this year will be a roller coaster. The good news is that it is a long season, and that Scott, Thompson and Amir (to a lesser degree) have shown improvement over last year. 

ou88bocat's picture

I'm not sure I agree about the lack of experience on this has been said that most players make the most improvement between year 1 & 2, they become stronger, know the system better, what's expected of them, and more confidence. I look at the other top ranked programs (Kentucky, Kansas, Fichigan, Michigan State, etc), and their 1st & 2nd year players are making major contributions, and I look at our 1st & 2nd year players and they aren't the impact players I would expect them to be. Whatever the reason is, the players are not developing skill wise and that falls on the player, but also the coaches. Relying on Lenzelle Smith as a starting 2guard is not good enough in my opinion!


oregonianbuckeye's picture

Ravenel is the only senior that plays. Craft and Thomas have experience as a third year players, but the other guys that are getting minutes (with the exception of Smith) did not play much last year. Amir, Q, Thompson, and Scott were all in the program, but saw very limited minutes last year. I agree that we aren't seeing KY (and the other schools you mentioned) type contributions out of our first year guys, but that is due to a talent difference. Sully was a beast his 1st and 2nd years, but none of our current players are first round talents. I've seen Matta develop guys, like Evan Turner, quite well. It just takes time. I fully expect Scott, Thompson, Smith, and Amir to be very good players in a year or two. A good portion of the current rotation includes guys that did not see big time minutes last year. I agree with you that most improvement is between years 1 and 2, with the caveat that it is years 1 and 2 of playing significant minutes. 

CSAR Buckeye's picture

This is a case of the short bench rotation that Coach Matta has been playing the last few years finally hurting the Bucks.  Sure, on paper there's several experienced players on the roster who are now starters, but they had so little game experience before that they might as well be freshmen. 

smartfootballrankings's picture

We should just make Craft a player/coach and be done with it.  It's not like Matta does anything.

Terwilligins's picture

Problem is when you lose players like Sully and to a lesser extent, Buford, you need to either backfill with immediate-impact recruits or rely on improvement from returning players to retain the same level of play. We don't have any impact new guys, and from what we've seen I think it can be argued that only one returning player has improved to any noticeable degree - Shannon Scott. Several players, IMO, have actually regressed from last year - notably Craft and Lenzelle.
So we lost a lot and gained little to nothing (I can't be pursuaded that Ross has become a real contributor yet). Combine that with what everyone is pointing out as a lack of floor leadership, and the falloff is considerable.
Two things to keep in mind, though - 1) there's still time for guys to improve this season and you have to believe that's at least possible for Amir (why hasn't this happened yet?) and Craft (based on the fact we've seen him as both an offensive baller and floor leader in the past); and 2) there was a ton of concern and frustrated threads last year about leadership and consistency, and we landed a few plays shy of the NC game.

buckatron32's picture

I would like to see more of the offense run through Ross when Thomas is being keyed on and is ineffective. Ross is a player that needs the ball in his hands to score, and he causes mismatch problems for most defenses. Running the offense through him will also help Thomas, who will get more open looks and offensive putbacks. 

O-H-I-Owe-U's picture

I feel like we've run a couple different offensive sets during Matta's time depending on the talent. We had a year or two where it all ran through Evan. Then it shifted to get Sullinger involved at the top of the key and get him rolling to the bucket. This current team reminds me of Matta's first team:
I'd personally like to see this group stay in constant motion on offense. We simply don't have a #2 guy to breakdown a defense on the dribble. Lenzelle doesn't penetrate with the ball with any consistency (it seems like he dribbles too high). Craft and Scott aren't big enough to finish at the rim so even if they penetrate they are not going to cause a defense to completely collapse and open up the outside shooters. Deshaun isn't the ball handler that Evan Turner was, so it's not like we can just let him work his way to the bucket.
Whatever happen, these guys need to find their pride and get after it.

buckeye.33's picture

It has nothing to do with experience. All these guys played a lot last year. They should know what to expect. No one is consistent besides DT. I was liking Q but these last few games he has not been ready to play and has been playing like a pussy. Amir is a pussy who looks like he doesn't even know how to play basketball sometimes. Lenzelle takes plays off. Aaron is a non threat on the offensive end. I love defense and I love his hustle but his lack of offensive production is hurting us more. 

ou88bocat's picture



buckatron32's picture

I would agree that Ross and Williams have been extremely frustrating because they seem to have the talent and potential to be key players on this team but haven't been able to play up to that potential. I think Williams will get better with more playing time and makes enough of an impact on defense when focused to warrant playing. I really think Ross is a player that needs to have the offense go through him to succeed, kind of like an Evan Turner when he was a Buckeye. Otherwise, he seems to grow uninterested and fails to make an impact on the game. 

wjpalumbo's picture

Two big issues I see.  The guards have no motion or rythm to their offensive game.  The either throw up a three or drive into the defense to take a more difficult shot.  The only way OSU will start to score is if they get into an area that doesn't have to be behind the arc and shoot a 15 footer in rythm.  Second, there is no post presence at all.  The only legitimate threat down low is Thomas when he posts up.  The big men have been reduced to high screen setters and have no chance to clean up the boards because 1-4 stay on the perimeter.  Their best offense came late in the second half when Thomas played on the block. 



niblick's picture

Aside from Deshaun, they are the worst shooting team we have ever had in the 40 years ive been alive, and thetes not even a close second.

WiliestBuckeye's picture

I watched the game yesterday and this Ohio State team just got out competed in every facet of the game. They looked slow and disinterested on offense, and on defense they were not paying attention which caused multiple mental mistakes on easy plays. I think they expected Illinois to roll over for them and when that was not the case, they did not adjust their mindset. Maybe last year's success has gotten to their heads, but what I witnessed during that game was not a lack of firepower or talent but rather a lack of will.

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment."

ou88bocat's picture

Lack of Leadership!!!


OSUNeedles's picture

I had asked a buddy before the season started if this would be Matta's first year not winning 20. He looked at me like I had insulted his mom. I really had very little confidence in these players abilities to improve to the degree they needed to as shooters. We have some great athletes, but not enough dead to rights shooters.

BuddhaBuck's picture

Agreed. This squad is missing out on sharpshooters... Here are a few guys tOSU has been spoiled with over the last few years:

  • Jon Diebler
  • Evan Turner
  • Daequan Cook
  • Wil Buford
  • Ron Lewis

2004-2006 was a quiet period unless you think Jamar Butler should be on this list.
IMO the biggest issue isn't just being able to make a shot, but having the ability to go create their own shot. DT has the ability to make buckets, but he's not going to break any defender's ankles doing so.

Don't text while driving.

zbd's picture

Poor recruiting. When your only Freshman is a moppy haired Italian, you're in trouble. Poor recruiting is catching up with Matta.

toledobuckeyefanjim's picture

This OSU team is definitely going backward instead of getting better with each game. Worse yet, Matta is getting outrecruited by that school up north. Letting Trey Burke end up in a-squared is a travesty that should have never happened, especially since he went to the same high school as the Sullinger brothers.

Jack Fu's picture

I am really worried that they're not regressing, they're just not that good to begin with. OSU lost its two best (or two of its three best) offensive players in Sullinger and Buford, one of whom was a two-time first-team all-american. They've been replaced in the starting lineup by Amir Freaking Williams and Sam Freaking Thompson. To be anywhere near the top 5, as the Bucks were ranked in the preseason, the team needed either of the following: A.) those two guys make gigantic improvements, like, on orders of magnitude, over where they were last year, or B.) last year's role players (Craft and Smith) step up and become very-good-to-great players, with mild improvement from last year's bench guys. In hindsight, they both seem like stretches, don't they?
This team should still make the tournament. But I'd say its ceiling right now is a 4-seed, and a 6, 7, or lower is not out of the question. Unless the light magically goes on for Williams, Thompson, or (HA!) Ross.