For as inconsistent as Ohio State's offense is this year, Thad Matta can grab a reliable scorer off the bench to spark his team. A large, early deficit against Indiana rendered Kam Williams ineffective, but he was instrumental throughout OSU's seven-game win streak.
Williams played at least 14 minutes in each game since Austin Grandstaff transferred. Prior to that, his playing time ranged from four (Virginia) to 26 (Grambling St.) minutes played. His play with an increased workload allowed Matta to settle on a rotation; no doubt a key reason why the Buckeyes reeled off seven wins in a row.
The sophomore guard shot nearly 60 percent from the field and scored in double figures three times during the win streak, via our Chris Lauderback. Williams' numbers throughout that stretch and – in particular – his performance against Northwestern displayed his importance to the team.
Let's see how Matta and assistant Greg Paulus incorporated Williams into the offense:
OSU's Zone Offense
Illinois and Northwestern mixed heavy 2-3 zone usage with some man-to-man. At times, opponents constantly switching defensive looks give Ohio State problems.
The Buckeyes don't necessarily turn the ball over that much in these situations – save for the Indiana game – but it typically takes them longer to initiate offense. The two freshmen point guards on the roster makes it more difficult, but JaQuan Lyle and A.J. Harris have improved in their ability to read opposing defenses.
With Williams on the floor and the spacing he provides, OSU likes to run a high ball screen for Lyle or Harris to see how the defense reacts when either point guard attacks. Here, the wing defender rotates to Lyle and the Illini defender in the short corner does not get to Williams quickly enough:
A traditional way to attack the 2-3 zone is to run the offense through the high post.
In this instance, Keita Bates-Diop flashes to that spot on the floor. Jalen Coleman-Lands recognizes it and prevents the entry, but his teammate rotates a bit too far towards Lyle. This time, Loving is again open, but Illinois prevents Williams from getting off his shot. So, Williams finds Loving open in the short corner for the three.
Credit to Jae'Sean Tate, as well, for sealing off Michael Finke and preventing a contest:
Hitting threes is the easiest way to bust a zone. Another play the Buckeyes run to create those open looks is via double screens. Rather than camping in the short corner, Bates-Diop sets a screen on the back-line defender and Daniel Giddens walls off the man on the right wing.
If executed properly, Williams is able to hop-step into his shot:
Other Ways Williams Can Score
A lineup with Williams, Bates-Diop and Loving, or any pairing of the three can prove to be deadly for opposing defenses when playing zone.
The Illini, Wildcats and Hoosiers didn't play zone exclusively because of the Buckeyes' perimeter threats. This forced Ohio State to find different ways to get Williams involved.
A common way OSU does this is via a dribble hand-off and high ball screen. Occasionally, it will be a double high screen – Tate floated towards the low-post in this case. Williams was fouled on the play:
Surprisingly, Indiana defended this well. Max Bielfeldt hedged and disrupted Williams' rhythm:
On the Defensive End
As is the case with anyone on Matta's squad, Williams will continue to see playing time if he shows consistent effort on defense.
Williams is making strides in this area and – like many of his teammates – becomes more engaged defensively when things go well for him on offense. He can add to Ohio State's defensive versatility if he's able to switch onto skilled scorers, such as Illinois' Kendrick Nunn:
When the Buckeyes constantly turn the ball over and struggle scoring, defensive intensity can unravel quickly. This is a perfect example – not all Williams' fault, as Loving let Troy Williams get behind him. Still, Williams shouldn't gamble for a steal in this situation:
I'll further analyze the defensive breakdowns and turnovers during the Indiana game, as well as what could be a similarly ugly game in Maryland during next week's hoops film study session.