Just when it seemed the Buckeyes were starting to click, the team unravelled a bit in Connecticut. Fortunately, OSU found a way to quickly respond to the loss unlike earlier in the season.
It's reasonable to expect some wild inconsistencies from a team as inexperienced as Thad Matta's ever coached at Ohio State. Unforced turnovers are a major issue again, JaQuan Lyle's confidence is wavering and – while the defense is largely solid overall –they still experience lapses in energy or focus.
The following clips are from the UConn game but some of the same problems appeared throughout the win over Northern Illinois.
Turnovers in Bunches
UConn jumped out to an early lead but didn't really pull away until the game clock ticked under ten in the first half. Ohio State went through two long stretches in the half without a field goal – the first lasted nearly three minutes, the second was nearly six.
Common theme throughout both droughts: turnovers, particularly the unforced variety. OSU committed 13 turnovers, six of which occurred in those long stretches without a basket.
The Huskies' defense collapsed all game long. In the latter part of the first half, the Buckeyes had issues finding the open three-point shooters:
Ohio State still got 22 shots off from beyond the arc, so it wasn't an issue outside of this stretch. Problem was they didn't hit those open looks. Marc Loving, in particular, is struggling of late – he's only hit two of his last 14 from three-point range.
Naturally, the freshman point guards are taking the brunt of criticism when it comes to turnovers. Asking inexperienced players to run that position at the college level is putting this team in a difficult spot. Remember, last year, Shannon Scott ran the offense before D'Angelo Russell caught up mentally.
A team like UConn did not take it easy on Lyle or A.J. Harris – Kevin Ollie and his staff mixed in different full-court pressures. From the occasional zone-trap to a simple one-on-one full-court pressure, Lyle saw it all and did not handle it well:
Lyle's IN-Game Adjustments
I don't want to pile on Lyle. I cannot begin to imagine how I would react to seeing a Jock Jams-fueled, raucous atmosphere right from the tip for the first time. Especially since my basketball playing career flamed out after sixth-grade rec league.
Lyle is only slightly more experienced at the college level. While many of his mistakes are documented here, he did show some savvy that may go unnoticed considering what happened in this game.
From the outset, the Huskies sagged off Lyle when the ball left his hands:
Lyle did not hit a three against UConn, but he did do a better job of finding open spots to take them later in the game. That experience might have paid off against Northern Illinois as he hit two from beyond the arc.
One quick and encouraging adjustment from Lyle caught my eye. Early on, it looked like he was a bit passive. Perhaps he was just getting a feel for the opposing defense.
For example, the Huskies overplayed Lyle to his right and anticipated Daniel Giddens' screens on high pick and rolls:
Lyle's indecisiveness and read bogged down the offense. On the next possession, he compensated and went to his left with a nifty spin move, shielding his defender from the ball:
He didn't make the basket and struggled all game around the rim, but so did his teammates.
Generally, Ohio State did a good job closing out on jumpers and forcing contested looks for a UConn team which doesn't generate much of its points from three-pointers.
By my count, Omar Calhoun and Rodney Purvis had five contested looks with one open three on their makes. Problem was some other defensive breakdowns, at times in which OSU absolutely needed stops.
When your offense isn't giving you anything, the defense needs to be flawless. That was not the case. Right after the opening tip, this happened:
Loving should've rotated sooner and, knowing the end result, Thompson probably could have dropped a bit further back to protect the rim. Credit Amida Brimah for quickly slipping the screen and catching OSU's defense by surprise in rolling to the basket, though.
A far more egregious lapse bookended an ugly half for the Bucks. Perhaps Lyle sensed a Brimah screen, but he completely lost Jalen Adams off the dribble. Kam Williams offered weak, one-armed help and Giddens was a half step away from blocking this:
Any Reasons for Optimism?
Why yes, one clip illustrates the Buckeyes are capable of properly reading defenses and adhering to what they see on film.
As shown earlier, Ollie has a tendency to mix defensive pressures in the opposing backcourt. Usually, they stick to an aggressive, half-court man-to-man style. Ollie clearly wanted to take advantage of Ohio State's inexperienced backcourt and sent a few presses their way.
Ollie also switched defensive looks in half-court situations following the under-12 timeout in each half. To OSU's credit, they immediately recognized UConn was in a 2-3 zone and patiently worked the ball around until Harris got an open look from the perimeter: