Offensive Woes Undermining Ohio State

By Kyle Rowland on January 18, 2014 at 6:00a
Lenzelle Smith and Co. can't create any offense.

Thad Matta said all the right things after Ohio State squandered a second-half lead to Iowa last Sunday. He referenced past seasons and how he’d been in similar situations. Becoming flustered wasn’t an option. Matta said the finish line wasn’t even in sight yet.

Coming up on a week later, is a Buckeye victory in sight? They suffered a third consecutive loss Thursday night, and the next win remains a mystery due to offensive ineptitude. Matta had no answer for the recent performances.

The words he used were “I don’t know” and it seemed as if they were mumbled to himself. Who could blame him? The starting five – minus LaQuinton Ross – scored 19 points and shot 27 percent from the field at Minnesota. Ohio State trimmed the turnovers to 13, though some still emerged at inopportune moments. But it didn’t matter because of an inability to score points.

Zone defenses have wreaked havoc for the No. 11 Buckeyes. Because there’s no consistent threat complementing Ross, opponents are able to render Ohio State irrelevant on one end of the floor. It was a robust 7-of-22 shooting in the second half.

The Gophers committed nine turnovers in the game’s first 10 minutes and only trailed by one point thanks to the Buckeyes’ woeful shooting. They misfired on 11 of their first 14 shots. And it wasn’t as if Ohio State threw up low-percentage looks, it got the shot attempts it wanted. 

Lenzelle Smith Jr. continued a forgettable stretch where he’s just 10 for his last 32 from the field. It’s even worse when he moves beyond the arc – 2 for 19.

Former Buckeye.Jordan Sibert is Dayton's leading scorer.

Point guards Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott provide minimal in the way of offense, meaning only three legitimate scorers are on the court. In a 10-point loss to Minnesota, Craft and Scott combined for eight points and nine turnovers, an unthinkable combination for a top-15 team. The pair has 26 turnovers and 26 assists during the losing streak. Craft alone has 15 turnovers.

Sixth man Sam Thompson was the second-leading scorer against the Gophers with 12 points. No one else had more than eight. But the poor shooting isn’t limited to field goals. The Buckeyes have also suffered at the free throw line. They were 11 of 18 Thursday and are converting just 68.4 percent of their attempts on the season.

What Ohio State lost in Deshaun Thomas cannot be overstated. If a basket were needed, he would find a way to get the ball to the rim or draw a foul. That type of player isn’t on the current roster. Through Thomas’ sometimes questionable shot attempts and underwhelming defense, he was a machine in crunch time.

Without Thomas, the Buckeyes’ offense ranks 130th in the country. That’s how you go from 15-0 and ranked No. 3 to 2-3 in the Big Ten. Failure to find the basket equals failure to win games. There’s also been a failure to hold on to talent.

J.D. Weatherspoon and Jordan Sibert transferred to Toledo and Dayton, respectively, following the Buckeyes’ Final Four run in 2012, with both citing playing time as the reason. The duo is now flourishing at their landing spots.

Weatherspoon is averaging 11.3 points and six rebounds per game for the 14-2 Rockets, shooting 55.6 percent from the field. Sibert is the leading scorer for the Flyers, who fashion a 13-4 record. Sibert’s averaging 12.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists. He’s shooting an impressive 47 percent from the field and three-point range.

Ross leads the Buckeyes from 3 at 41 percent. Second best is Amedeo Della Valle, who’s only shooting 37.3 percent from long range. 

It’s become obvious that Ohio State isn’t the same team that started the season 15-0. These Buckeyes are damaged goods. But 13 games remain in the regular season, an eternity in basketball. Ohio State waited until February to reach rock bottom last season, before quickly rebounding and winning 11 consecutive games.

Reality isn’t always friendly, and right now it’s staring the Buckeyes in the face with a scowl.


Comments Show All Comments

PhillyBuckeye27's picture

I really hope I am wrong about this but I don't see this team any better that 8 and 8 in conference play.  Right now, we may be playing for a first round bye in the big ten tourney - and that saddens me.....

Deadly Nuts's picture

We were playing for a first round bye last year.


wyatt's picture

The cake  pre-conference schedule does nothing for either the football or bb teams.  Grow a pair and start playing legitimate teams to improve.  The AD who scheduled those games should be changed.

Kyle Rowland's picture

First off, ADs don't make the basketball schedule. Second, Matta's also used a weak non-conference slate. He's explained his philosophy a million times. It has nothing to do with OSU's struggles. They just aren't as good this season as they've been in recent years. The toughest schedule during the Matta years was 2007-08, OSU struggled mightily with it and made the NIT. 

buckeyestu's picture

Cupcakes makes a person fat. Does nothing for competitive development.

DenBuck's picture

If I recall, those 2 left the program when Thad refused to go very deep into the bench. Now he looks to the bench but we got nothing there. I'm still PO'd we did not offer Trey Burke but Scott looked better on paper. I love the guys but wow are we inept when it comes to scoring. Oh well, great class coming in next year. Sure we wish we could land a BIG guy...

Buckeye For Life

skid21's picture

 I'm still PO'd we did not offer Trey Burke but Scott looked better on paper.

I love those who know so much after the fact. So who were the other elite programs offering Burke? What a pussy after the fact fan.

TMac's picture

In the Three Losses;
Shooting %    3Pt %          T.O.
41.4%          22.2%         21
47.5%           29.4%         17
35.3%          37.5%          13
BOLD = Unacceptable if you want to compete for the B1G and make a run in the NCAA. Craft and Scott have to make better decisions on passes and LQR, ADV and Amir need to score the ball. And Lenzell needs to wake the f up!

ONE Not Done!

buckeyestu's picture

I had figured maybe 6 to 8 losses in league play, but now, i would not be shocked to see just 6, maybe 7 wins only. This is an average team, if that even. Thinking NIT.

gravey's picture

What I've noticed is the inability to hit a 10-15 jumper, especially the little pull-up in the lane.  They're taking them, but nothing is falling.  You got to hit those against the zone - especially when you can't bomb a zone from behind the arc.   It's really puzzling.
It's also a psychological issue - and slumps go away just a quickly as they materialize, so I'm not throwing in the towel yet (well..I never throw in the towel on the Buckeyes).  
Aaah...the burden of high expectations.

okiebuck's picture

Too much standing around on offense; need more high screens and back door cuts against the zone. Relying to much on the three; and both Lenzelle Smith and Sam Thompson need to stop trying to dunk everything and just make the easy damm layup.
Also, what's the point of talking about kids who, for whatever reason, transferred a few years ago and are no longer at Ohio State? That both are doing well in cupcake conferences means nothing.

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

ScarletNGrey01's picture

I posted a bunch of times before the season that I thought we had a great group of kids but I was concerned about the buckeyes being offensively challenged and lacking a dominating guy down in the post.  Didn't take a rocket scientist to make those assertions, but I was surprised at how well the bucks were doing early on in terms of the win streak.  Water seeks its own level, and this is maybe what we have, a team of kids with big hearts and a lot of hustle, capable of beating top teams but also capable of losing to good teams.  I still think the bucks could have a decent season, a lot of their shots the past couple of games are just missing, once they get back in sync they'll be fine.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

ibuck's picture

Looks to me that Matta expects the Buckeyes to play big boy basketball, at both ends of the floor and at the free throw line. The players are (largely) failing at that, and some have transferred due to their inability or unwillingness to do so. Shooting FTs is about developing a good stroke and practicing it—a lot. The players, including senior Aaron Craft, are not doing that. Developing a sound jump shot is similar. Did shooting coach Chris Gent leave for a better gig or was he frustrated that these kids wouldn't listen?

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

JakeStevensIsSwag's picture

Lenzelle Smith sucks. LaQuinton Ross needs to be in the game as much as DT was last year. Sam Thompson needs to start over Lenzelle.

Buckeye fan from PA

PhillyBuckeye27's picture

Anybody needs to start over LSJ.....3 year starters have never looked so horrible!!!!!

Knarcisi's picture

1. Our struggles in the middle are well documented and continue to hurt us.
2.  We have no consistent outside threat. I do out some of that on Matta in how he recruited. Teams are dropping almost solely to zone on us. Why does ADV not play more?
3. I like Shannon Scott but frankly he was a bad fit for this team. He's the same type of player as Craft, and they are only one year apart. Neither of them is going to give you a lot of scoring and we have them both on the floor at the same time. I'd rather a scoring PG or a shooter. 
So, on the floor on any given night is a big man that can't score, 2 non-scoring point guards, a role player, and the only scorer in Ross. Matta is a fantastic coach and a good recruiter, but I question the mix. 

HYDEYOKIDS's picture

I agree the problem is we don't have anyone on the bench that can shoot better. Maybe ADV but Scott offers way more in the way of defense and ball handling. We try to survive with our defense because that is the only option.

Knarcisi's picture

That's my point. Recruiting mix rather than same player types.  Amir and McDonald ... Same. Craft and Scott ... Same. Smith and Thompson ... Same. 

ibuck's picture

Not sure blaming Matta for who he recruits is fair: he only gets a few of those who accept his offers. And then some of them won't do the work to be useful on both ends of the floor, so they sit or transfer (Crater, Witherspoon, Sibert).  Or they don't develop as expected (Craft, LSJ, Thompson), or are intimidated by B1G play (A Williams, ADV). Or they develop quickly and bolt to the pros, like Oden, Conley, Cook, Koufos, Mullens, Turner, and Sullinger.  DeShaun Thomas would have been well served by another year in school, but would he listen?(Now playing for a so-so team in France).  Or for some reason (illness, test scores) can't participate  enough to learn Matta's system (Ross, K Williams). Is Matta to blame for all that?
Imagine what this team would be like if Sullinger and Thomas were still in school, Kam Williams stayed healthy, and Ross hadn't lost time his 1st season. 

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

Knarcisi's picture

... Candy and nuts. 

ibuck's picture

Were Scott & Craft the same type of player in high school? Or did Shannon learn from Craft? You're right, CNarcisi. Once Matta has a PG, he shouldn't recruit another one for 4 years. Same with wings.
In any event, (and perhaps you will concur with this) I hope Matta gets their thinking corrected by Monday night so they can play with confidence vs a team they beat by 31 just 2 weeks ago.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

2002osubuck's picture

It's too bad Kam Williams got mono and was out for so long. He's a great scorer and could really help us right now. I haven't really heard much news about him.  Does anyone know if he can come back this season?

HYDEYOKIDS's picture

He could but they won't play him. Matta said the mono set him far back in terms of practice and development that it isn't worth him using a year of eligibility. They are almost certainly going to redshirt him.

Buckeye Chuck's picture

I've criticized Matta here and there over the years, especially for his extreme reluctance to use his bench, but I can't fault him for Jordan Sibert. We've lost guys for lack of playing time, but Sibert was part of the regular bench rotation once upon a time, and gradually lost time because his shooting was so terrible. If you're a national championship contender -- and recall that we made the Final Four in 2012, Sibert's last year here -- how long do you go with a player whose one job is providing instant offense, but is shooting only 30 percent?
Good for Sibert for turning his career around, but he played badly when here and that's not Matta's fault.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.