Poles Apart: Scott and Smith Trending in Opposite Directions this Postseason

By Michael Citro on March 16, 2014 at 8:15a

“Did you know...it was all going to go so wrong for you. And did you see it was all going to be so right for me” – Pink Floyd, Poles Apart

In the wake of Ohio State’s run to the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament, the Buckeyes saved their best game for their archrivals from up north. It didn’t result in a victory, but it just might provide the shooting confidence this team needs entering the big dance.

The three games in the B1G tourney in Indianapolis illustrated how two Buckeye guards are currently heading in opposite directions as the most important games of the year approach.

Junior point guard Shannon Scott exploded with one of his best career performances — if not the very best — in the semifinal loss to Michigan. Scott tied a career high with 18 points on 7/10 shooting on Saturday afternoon, adding five rebounds, six assist and three steals. He also torched the Wolverines from the arc, hitting 4/6 from range.

This was the apex of a three-game arc for Scott that saw him start the tournament making four of his first seven shots against Purdue and Nebraska. In all the Alpharetta, Ga., native shot 65% from the floor during the Big Ten tournament.

Scott showed remarkable improvement over his regular season numbers over the three days, while serving up 13 assists and adding five steals. He even hit 5/9 from distance (56%), giving the Buckeyes perhaps their only reliable long-range bomber.

To say Scott’s performance in the tournament was a surprise would be an understatement. He had previously been an offensive liability for much of the year.

"I've just got to learn to stay aggressive on offense at all times," Scott said.

He was aggressive over the last two games, particularly on Saturday. Scott showed no hesitation and looked confident on pull-up jumpers and spot-up threes. If he can play like that from now on and add some finishing touch on contested layups, he’ll become the player Thad Matta envisioned when he recruited him out of Georgia.

Meanwhile, senior Lenzelle Smith Jr. went the other way.

The Illinois native scored only six points over the final two tournament games and 15 total points over the three days for a 5-point average —less than half his regular season average.

But what’s worse is that Smith was a volume shooter with those paltry totals. He went 4/18 (22%) from the floor and just 2/12 (17%) from the three-point line.

Clearly the senior’s confidence is at its nadir. This was evident in the final minutes of the narrow loss to Michigan, when he passed up an open triple from the top of the circle and dished off to a teammate.

Smith sat much of Friday’s game against Nebraska while Amedeo Della Valle provided some rare heroics off the bench. When he played, he added nothing much offensively (three points).

That’s not to say Smith wasn’t able to contribute at all in the tournament. He did pull down 13 rebounds with seven steals and two blocks, providing another solid defender on the floor for Matta.

Whether this is a trend that will continue or if Scott and Smith are caught in some Freaky Friday-esque body swap remains to be seen. Ohio State cannot compete with Smith on the floor if he continues to be colder than Frank Underwood in House of Cards.

If Smith can regain his average form and Scott continues to trend upward, the Buckeyes might just muster a run in the NCAA tournament.  But if it’s Scott who reverts to his average and Smith whose trend continues, Ohio State will be out of the big dance before things can even get interesting.

From The Web


Nutinpa's picture

Has LSJ's slide in Offense production been a recent thing?  The bottom line is...that despite being a great rebounder and contributor for his size, LSJ's perimeter shooting really has not improved to a significant degree since his Freshman year.  Someone will refute that with a stat that proves otherwise, but the bottom line is, that Smith Jr was a role player on offense at best...and with the departure of DT, was simply not suited to be a perimeter scorer and take the pressure off of LaQ.  

LSJ should always be remembered as a great Buckeye ...who was put into a role he wasn't fit for...which points to some regrettable misses by Matta on the recruiting trail and an inability to develop shooters over the past 3 seasons.  Craft, LSJ and Sammy T are the same or similar players they were 3 years ago. 

OTOH....if Shannon Scott can build off of yesterday's performance and be complimented by a 2-guard who can score predictably, the Buckeyes' offense next year could be improved.   

+1 HS
mrspray's picture

Part of me would love to see Scott start in place of LSJ for the NCAA tourney, but I don't think it's going to happen at this point.

Next year though, there should be a few options for a legit shooting guard to step up and fill that role. Combined with the Shannon Scott we saw against scUM, we should be in for a treat compared to this year.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

. . . inability to develop shooters over the past 3 seasons.  

How much can college coaches really develop shooters? They can tinker with a kid's mechanics, but that's no promise that he'll shoot better with the supposedly better mechanics. Shooting almost seems like witch craft to me.

Whereas a coach teaching defense in a systematic way probably more consistently delivers results.

Now, we can definitely criticize Matta for recruiting and/or the overall offensive "flow" (or lack thereof) this season. 

okiebuck's picture

I believe that's where the loss of Chris Jent really hurt the Bucks this year.

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

+3 HS
Treemeister's picture

I agree entirely! I wonder how MUCH Jent would have helped Craft with his shooting form. I still believe he will be a second round pick, and whomever selects him will help with his shooting "Hitch". Craft's defensive instincts are undeniable and just what the NBA would appreciate.

buckeyejonross's picture

Craft couldn't shoot last year either?

"You might as well appeal against a thunderstorm as against these terrible hardships of war. War is cruelty, there is no use trying to reform it; the crueler it is, the sooner it will be over." -William T., Battle of Atlanta, B1G.

MassiveAttack's picture

And clearly the "10,000" shots per week, this summer, paid few dividends. 

Nutinpa's picture

Fair points, fido.  Many agree with you including a few folks I exchange emails with away from the message boards including a few coaches.  The growth of the "one and done" superstars has forced a lot of coaches, including Matta, to focus on Defense and other aspects of the game, including the fast break.  

I will grant you that a coach can't recreate a player's mechanics.  Maybe I am still living in the past and seeing how Diebler improved his game over the 4 years he played.  As a Frosh, he couldn't throw it in the ocean and people doubted the hype he arrived with. By his senior year, we know his departure would be felt.....and it was.


mrspray's picture

I would interested to see some research on how many really good looks Diebler got his senior year compared to other years because he and Sullinger were dishing it back and forth, and if the defense didn't focus more on Sully, it was a near guaranteed layup. Not to take away from Diebler, but that was a strength of that entire team - everyone was capable of going off every night, so you couldn't focus on any one guy. Oh the days...

+1 HS
Killer nuts's picture

I responded to a post like this a couple weeks ago citing several stats but in short, lenzelle, Shannon, and Sam Thompson have all had very significant improvement in their shooting percentages compared to their freshman years

Nutinpa's picture

My guess is, you were responding to me, Killer....so at least we are both consistent with our point of view, LOL!

I won't doubt that Craft, LSJ and Sammy are statistically better now than 3 years ago....if for no other reason than to acknowledge you did the research and I did not.  But I will also restate that old adage about "statistics lie"....and all of that. 

If in fact they are all statistically better now than then...great!  It does not change a fundamental fact about all 3 of them....that they are the nucleus of a team that has struggled to score the past 2 seasons....and in this season, at times, in an epically brutal way.

Baroclinicity's picture

I'd love to see LSJ tear it up in the tournament...one last hurrah for his college career.  

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

+2 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

That would be like from "Outta Nowhere" so many people would complain - where has that been all season.

gm3jones's picture

That would be a good type of complaining tho. Nobody would be mad/upset if he shot better in big dance

There is nothing more remarkable as learning to think better.

PhillyBuckeye27's picture

Start Loving - he's the future.....No one takes more silly shots then LSJ.  The fact he continues to chuck up 3 after 3 is just frustrating.....just pass already

+2 HS
Run_Fido_Run's picture

Since January, this team has been yoyoing between being a good team and a rebuilding project. At one point, I was convinced they should park LSJ on the bench and cut Craft's minutes down to 25 or so, while preparing for the future, but then they started to play a little better again.

This team is good enough to win one or two games in the NCAA tournament, which means that they have a puncher's chance to do a little more than that. Given all the blood, sweat, and tears LSJ and Craft have put into the program, you have to let them take one last stab at it, even though they're not likely to go far. 

+1 HS
buckeyejonross's picture

LSJ was our second best offensive player all year, how could you possibly bench him for a deer-in-the-headlights-takes-one-shot-a-game true freshman in the NCAA tourney? Like it or not, we aren't beating anyone good unless LSJ plays and plays well. It's been that way basically all season.

"You might as well appeal against a thunderstorm as against these terrible hardships of war. War is cruelty, there is no use trying to reform it; the crueler it is, the sooner it will be over." -William T., Battle of Atlanta, B1G.

MassiveAttack's picture

Because LSJ did the same disappearing act the last two years, come this time.  I think he is the type of player that needs multiple days rest to have strong offensive showings.  :^(

Brutal Brutus's picture

If this team can stay hitting on all cylinders (and LSJ can get out of his funk) then they will present problems for other teams.  I just don't see this team suddenly becoming consistent - they  haven't done it all season.


Fear the Nut...

+3 HS
Killer nuts's picture

For all of our struggles and all the people that are down on this team it's worth noting that we just played a likely 1 seed in the NCAA tournament to the wire. We also beat a likely 2 seed on the road (Wisconsin). Sure, we could make an early exit from the tourney like everyone is saying but don't sleep on our Buckeyes making a run

+2 HS
ScarletGray43157's picture

If Michigan does get a #1 seed they may be the most vulnerable #1 in recent memory.  

In old Ohio there's a team that's known throughout the land...

+1 HS
okiebuck's picture

Agree Killer; when our defense is playing tough, the Buckeyes will be a tough out in the Dance.

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

+1 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Agreed Okie - when we are on we are on and can play with everyone.

bergy22's picture

Call me strange but the team that we face that scares me the most is a team that plays us tough defensively. I have enough faith in our defense to hang with just about anyone come tournament time, but a team that really makes it difficult for us to score, as if it isn't hard enough already, will lead to an early exit. So I am hoping to play teams similar to Michigan that are better offensive teams than defensive teams.

+1 HS
ScarletGray43157's picture

That is an astute observation.  As fragile as OSU is in regard to scoring from anywhere (even the foul line), if an opponent throws their rhythm off it will be difficult to win.  Shutting down the opponent on defense, every time,  is a must to have a shot at winning.  

In old Ohio there's a team that's known throughout the land...

+1 HS
FrontOfficeJT's picture

Smith, jr. Has always been a trending downward offensive player this year we don't have the team to hide him.

hopefully Scott will continue to improve. As much as I love Craft I'll. be happy to see him and his masonry go. How did we let Burke and LeVert leave Ohio? Thank god we have a good class coming in next year.




-1 HS
headina's picture

Craft will be missed more than people think. His departure will hurt more than sullinger and Thomas. I'm not calling you out, but there are a lot of ignorant people that base how good a player is solely on scoring. His leadership, hustle, and ability to straight lock down ANY player is vastly underrated. He provides points here and there. His departure will be catastrophic if nobody steps up to be a leader next season. Whoever it is has colossal shoes to fill. 


+2 HS
Nutinpa's picture

I agree with you to a point, headina. Without Craft, this team loses its identity on Defense and a player who excelled in intangibles, especially in a "me first" elite program society.

But I will stop short of completely agreeing with you, especially when you refer to Sully and Thomas. Why? Because with those 2 guys, Ohio State basketball was an elite program and team.  Without them?  This year's team 6 weeks ago was teetering, if even briefly, with missing the Dance altogether and only the bravest of fans in Buckeye Nation see them making it to the Sweet 16.  There is no doubt that Craft will be missed and I want to spit on my keyboard when I see the occasional fan's venom toward him.  But I assure you, this team is still reeling from the losses of Sully, DT, Buford and Diebler in the past 4 years....and nobody has stepped up as a guy opposing coaches have to game plan around. 

Treemeister's picture

Absolutely true! Most of the things Craft excels at don't show up on the stat sheet. But, you'll notice it next year when he isn't around.

Dougger's picture

Basketbucks play to the level of their competition. If you can't get hyped to play, only play when you're down 16, and miss open shots (including free throws), I sadly don't see them going very far in the tournament, even if they have hung with potential 1 + 2 seeds in the past.

I hope they prove me wrong!

I like football

+1 HS
Buckeye Chuck's picture

Unfortunately ,we've seen this before. In the 7 postseason games we played last season, Smith only scored more than 6 points in one of them -- the first round NCAA win over Iona, a team that was about on the level of a typical worst team in the Big Ten.

I can't really see benching Smith at this late date, but Matta has shown that within the constraints of only having 9 scholarship players, he's able to adjust playing time according to who's contributing. Bottom line is if Smith disappears himself in the first 10 minutes of our first game Thursday/Friday, he won't play a lot more that day.

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

funky123's picture

Really like the Pink Floyd quote.


Colerain 2004 G.O.A.T.'s picture

Cant wait to see Scott,Q,Thompson,Russell,and Tate all on the court next year. Our very own slamma jamma. Future is looking very bright in Columbus in basketball and football.

I speak the truth but I guess that's a foreign language to yall.~~Lil Wayne

OSUFlash's picture

Everyone is also so quick to throw Craft under the bus but LSJ was positively horrible on offense against Nebraska and Michigan. His 3 point shooting has been way off the mark. And LaQuinton hasn't been exactly tearing it up from deep range either and threw up an ugly airball against UM.

I'm hoping these guys can win 2 in the tournament but I believe it'll take them playing solid ball without these multiple, scoring dry spells.


ghalephoto's picture

Its simple he takes it personal when he is guarded well and try's to hard to prove he can still score.  He can't and when he gets defended well and his shot isn't falling he disappears.  You also never see anyone in his face to snap out of it.  Its almost like the other players know it is what it is, can't do anything about it so...  Until, Matta pulls him and or changes his min, we are doomed.  Brown prove he deserves the chance to play more min. and these need to come from Smith.   Where would Ohio State be if Matta went after, aggressively, A. White (Iowa), Travis Trice (MSU) and had gotten Payne?  We need to identify targets in Ohio and not lose them.   Payne wanted to come to Ohio State so bad he was willing to do almost anything.  I know he had issues but MSU worked it out...we could have as well.  Our bigs get the ball in the paint and its a missed shot or a turnover.  Its why we have rely on outside shooting so much.

OldColumbusTown's picture

You may have more information than me on this (though I do follow Bball recruiting pretty closely), but from everything I know, OSU went hard after Payne but he just preferred MSU.  He didn't want to live in a big city, and he didn't want to be cast in the shadow of Sullinger, much like he was on All-Ohio Red.

Payne also had academic issues that may have made it more difficult to get him into OSU, but that is just mostly speculation...

Toilrt Paper's picture

If Smith could make ONE basket, Ohio State beats Michigan. ONE freaking basket.

OldColumbusTown's picture

I LOVE the way Scott played against Michigan and most of the rest of the B1G tourney (except for his rash of turnovers), but unfortunately I am not sure OSU can rely on his outside shooting to be a consistent threat.  If he makes his first shot, he tends to have a good shooting day.  If he misses, it tends to get ugly.

If/when OSU gets past Dayton and plays Syracuse, I'm going to sit here now and say Lenzelle Smith Jr. is the key to winning that game.  He came up big the last time OSU played Syracuse, and he will likely either shoot OSU to the win, or to the death, against that 2-3 zone.  Many may remember Je'Kel Foster's senior year, and how well he shots for long stretches of the season until he went cold in the tournament.  I'm hoping for a complete reversal of that from LSJ.  If he can possibly get hot, OSU beats Cuse and is an extremely tough out.  If he stays cold, I don't see how OSU can win many games assuming he keeps shooting it as much as he has.

CGroverL's picture

Being that I'm old (and I have pointed this out many times) and I have always been a New York Knick fan, I remember the Knick teams from around 20 years ago......They would play unreal defense, deny every pass, and almost always had a hand in the shooter's face. While that is how you play great defense, it diminishes your offense's capabilities. The downside to a stifling defense is that it tires players out when on offense. I used to watch the Knicks consistently hold opponents to 20 points under their average and that is exactly what is going on with the Bucks. The Knicks almost never shot well either...but they did win a lot of games.

So, to put it simply....Ohio State is not a good shooting team because they play so hard on defense. The problem with this is that this is a Thad Matta coached college team and not an NBA team. Matta is used to playing just 6 or 7 players per game. When you are a DEFENSIVE team like the Buckeyes are, you must have "all hands on deck". Matta has given out more minutes to the bench which is very much unlike him, but the Buckeyes are a DEFENSIVE TEAM where every player needs to contribute defensively and rebound rather than working as much on shooting percentage.

If any of you out there are old enough to remember the Knicks of the early 1990's, you know where I'm coming from. Go Buckeyes!!!


"I hope they're last in everything"

Thanks, Urb!