Point Break: Who Will Help Deshaun Thomas?

By Kyle Rowland on January 21, 2013 at 10:00a

Ohio State fans must have been equally mesmerized and horrified Saturday night. Deshaun Thomas, one of the top scorers in the country, had one of those nights that shooters dream of. It didn’t matter if he went up for a dunk or attempted a shot from 25 feet; more often than not it was going in the hoop. There’s a reason Thomas referred to himself as a “mismatch nightmare” prior to the game. 

"Someone?! Anyone!"

But the other part of that equation involved, well, the rest of the Buckeyes. Eight players are listed in the box score. One of them scored 28 points, the other seven combined for 28 points. Therein lies the problem with the 2012-13 Ohio State Buckeyes. Saturday was just the latest example of Ohio State’s inability to create offense sans Thomas.

If you limit a ranked opponent to 59 points in its own arena that happens to double as one of the nation’s most hostile environments, your probability of winning rises considerably. But it lowers just as much when your second-leading scorer finishes with six points. 

“Obviously you’d like to have everybody in double figures and all that,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. “But (Thomas) was smooth, he was efficient tonight, and it was just a tremendous effort by him.”

Michigan State’s 59-56 victory might be remembered as the “Shannon Scott Game” due to his ill-advised shot with 3.9 seconds remaining, but that vision is short-sided. Not only did Scott rally Ohio State in the first half when Michigan State roared out to a 13-2 lead, the Buckeyes had far bigger issues than the last possession. 

Eight first-half turnovers compounded by second-half miscues at inopportune moments, 61.5 percent free throw shooting, and rebounding issues all hampered Ohio State throughout the 40 minutes marred by inconsistency.

“You can’t start the game the way we started it,” Matta said. “We had some malfunctions. At the end of the first half, we had (eight) turnovers and they had seven steals. We weren't as sharp as we needed to be.”

What Ohio State’s performance should be remembered as is another missed opportunity. Once again, the Buckeyes couldn’t solve the riddle against a ranked opponent. Five times they’ve faced a top 25 team and four have resulted in a loss. That includes a 0-3 mark on the road.

More than halfway through the season, the Buckeyes’ scoring woes are a legitimate concern. Warning signs are flashing red, indicating that help is not only needed it’s a must. Eliminating Thomas from the box score reveals a 9 for 27 shooting experience for Ohio State. That adds up to 33 percent.

Winning a Big Ten championship, something Ohio State has done in each of the past three seasons, becomes much less attainable when points come as frequently as Halley’s Comet.

“Our defense was pretty good on everybody,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “You can go two ways when you play a team like that. You can try to hold down their superstar and hopefully all the others don't beat you, or you let the superstar score and hold down the rest. We held down the rest and tried not to let their superstar score, but he scored.”

Deshaun Thomas stink faceThe stink face.

Ohio State plays defense as well as anyone in the country. Aaron Craft is the catalyst, and his two steals in the closing minutes played a big part in the Buckeyes having a realistic chance to send the game to overtime.

Last week, Ohio State frustrated then-No. 2 Michigan early, leading the Wolverines to become overwhelmed. By the time they gained their footing, Ohio State had handed them their first loss of the season.

The lack of scoring has been the elephant in the room since the summer. It became apparent it would be a theme once the season started. Even in the win over Michigan it showed up. Thomas had 20 points and the next closest Buckeye had nine. What it says is Ohio State would be back among the nation’s elite if it had just one more reliable threat to put the ball in the basket.

“I am impressed with Thomas,” Izzo said. “Looking at him, I thought he was a guy that just shot volume shots for a couple of years. Now he’s really grown into a guy that works to get his shots.”

Thomas doesn’t need much space to get a good look. The slightest bit of separation can result in a made basket. But LaQuinton Ross, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Craft can’t create that same type of confidence when they shoot the ball.

Ross is averaging fewer than five points per game in conference play, Smith’s season average of 10 points has been on a steady decline, and Craft’s yearly field goal percentage is under 40.

Ironically, Thomas has often been considered a gunner. On Saturday, though, Buckeye Nation was more than happy to have him keep chucking it. He made 10 of 20 shots from the field, including a career-high six three-pointers. But it was the shots he didn’t shoot that is gathering most of the attention.

In the final 30 seconds, Ohio State took two 3s. One would have given them the lead and the other would have tied it. Thomas shot neither. Instead, it was Craft and Scott who misfired. The latter’s attempt caused much consternation from Thomas.

“I was knocking down shots all night,” Thomas said. “Why not (get me the last shot), or I can try to create something for my other teammates. We have to learn from this.”

Thomas has now been Ohio State’s leading scorer in 14 of 17 games, which is fine. But the No. 2 guy is unpredictable and far too often hovering about the 10-point range. What’s more, opponents have no doubt what Buckeye is the ringleader on offense. It allows defenses the option of letting Thomas get his points and then shifting attention to the four remaining on-court players or shutting Thomas down and making Ohio State win by getting other players active. Double teams and zones also have flustered the Buckeyes.

Matta is aware of the problems plaguing Ohio State. He’s said since October that complementing Thomas was near the top of his to-do list. But it’s not October anymore.

For Christmas, Matta said he asked Santa for better jump shooters. It might be too late for another wish when the Easter Bunny hops into Columbus in March.


Comments Show All Comments

BuddhaBuck's picture

In a world of what-if's.. how awesome would this team be if Sully would have stayed?

Don't text while driving.

Baroclinicity's picture

Our window of opportunity was 2 seasons ago.  Lighty, Diebs, Buford, Lauderdale, Craft, Sully, Thomas.
I want that tournament back.  Still painful.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

buckeye4life050233's picture

just the kentucky game in which the officials allowed josh harrelson to push sully everywhere without calling fouls and then called craft on a bunch of ticky tack fouls

gobucks1226's picture

We desperately need Lenzelle Smith to be that guy. He has been by far the most disappointing player on the offensive side of the ball this year. Unless he starts playing at a higher level, we are going to continue to struggle to score points.

TheHannimal's picture

No clear #2 scorer (or #3).  Why not just run the Princeton offense when stopped into half court sets.  Transition and running game is solid with our athletes, just nobody is wired to fill it up outside of Deshaun.
Waiting for Mark Loving to come in and torch.

RBuck's picture

Ross is averaging fewer than five points per game in conference play,

Yes , but without looking it up or doing the math, I would bet that Ross has more PPM than all the starters except for Thomas.
I think Thad should bite the bullet, give up a little D and give Q some more MPG.

Long live the southend.

bhsiba99's picture

I would agree wholeheartedly.

oregonianbuckeye's picture

I agree, PPM is a better measure, and would highlight Q's strength. However, I think that +/- is an even better measure than PPM. Ross does not block out, and gets lost frequently on defense. While he helps on the offensive end, and should see more time, he is still struggling defensively. 

Doc's picture

They are a gritty bunch, you have to give them that.  It makes it even more frustrating watching them.  Being close at the end and letting it slip away is hard to watch.  Is Della Valle that much of a liability on D that he gets no time to at least chuck up a few shots?  If Slam could get a few jumpers to fall that would be a help too.  Just so damn frustrating.

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

thatlillefty's picture

Watching Della Valle play at the beginning of the season at the end of some blow-out's... there is absolutely NO WAY that kid is ready for D1 bball. He seems like a nice kid, but I question why he was even offered a scholly.

sb97's picture

I just want to see Smith stay aggressive and or Matta to give Ross some more of Thompson's minutes in big games.  Smith is streaky but I would rather see him shoot then Craft or Thompson (at least right now).  I get that Matta prefers defense to offense and that Ross is not even all that great on offense yet but I think he will show a lot of improvement if he is allowed to get comfortable.

nickstr's picture

I saw Ross with 2 open looks vs MSU and failed to pull the trigger, similar in other games. Being a liability on defense, if he doesn't take oppertunity when he gets it, he won't be getting more minutes.

OldColumbusTown's picture

Agree.  I've noticed Craft, several times, implore Q to take the open 3 as soon as he receives the ball (and actually has an opening).  With my untrained eye, he seems to shoot much better when he does not hesitate, but at the same time, he's shown a great shot-fake, and then the ability to get to the basket and finish.
Ohio State badly, badly needs Ross to figure out the mental side of the game so they can take advantage of his offensive prowess.  He'd be a legitimate 15 ppg scorer if he was allowed to stay on the court.  That falls back on him, though, and helping give confidence to the coaches that his hard work in practice can and will translate to production on the floor when it counts.

thatlillefty's picture

Really disappointed with Lenzelle thus far. If he's playing 35 mins a game, he needs to have more of an impact.
Also, why did Sam Thompson sit the bench almost the entire second half?  He wasn't dropping buckets, but he played great defense and snagged some rebounds that first half.

osubuckeye4life's picture

We need Johnny Utah!
Zell is no longer the Scarlet Mamba. 

AC1972's picture

Here's my frustration.  Everyone keeps saying tOSU has no post presence.  That's only partially true.  tOSU is not just flat out not going to the post.  I agree that Rav and Amir are not Sully, but they are more than what they are being used for (esp. Ravenel).
I read an article where opposing coaches were praising Evan Ravenel's play.  Why don't we use him more?  The guy can score, defend and pass out of the post. 
tOSU is simply not using the post like they could.  I really put this on the coaches and the game plan.