As rough as the past three games were for the team, JaQuan Lyle's emergence during that stretch was one of the season's most positive developments.
An inconsistent non-conference slate preceded a rough start to Big Ten play for Lyle. In his first three conference matchups, he shot 35 percent from the field and committed six turnovers against Northwestern – OSU won all three games, however.
Lyle's play picked up in the blowout loss at Indiana as he scored a season-high 29 points. He followed that up with a triple-double in a win over Rutgers and scoring enough to keep OSU in the game early against Maryland.
We'll get to the lack of defense in the loss to the Terrapins. First, here's a look at how Lyle improved offensively.
Creating for Himself
The way Maryland defended Lyle differed from Indiana and Rutgers. Perhaps it was a response to the way he played or just the Terps' general defensive philosophy. Either way, Lyle got to the rim with ease in Bloomington and back home against the Scarlet Knights.
Thomas Bryant leads his team in blocks per game but wasn't much of a deterrent at the rim for Lyle. Bryant ICEs the pick and roll here, dropping back below the free throw line. It allowed Lyle to go straight downhill an use his left shoulder to shield Bryant from the ball:
In man-to-man, Rutgers' big men defended him the same way. On this play, D.J. Foreman slightly over-plays Lyle's right hand. He tends to be less efficient with his off-hand – as most players are. That doesn't mean he's incapable of going to his left, however:
When OSU uses smaller players to set a high ball screen – Jae'Sean Tate, in this instance – it makes it easier for the opposition to switch. Collin Hartman forces Lyle to his left, where Lyle is more prone to try a floater if he can't use his right hand to get to the rim:
Maryland often hedged on these high screens. When they allowed Lyle to turn the corner, he aggressively attacked the basket:
In the next highlight, the Terps defense wisely forced Lyle to use his left hand to finish at the rim. He displayed great awareness to split the defense but, ideally, Lyle would've kicked this out to Keita Bates-Diop in the corner:
Creating for Others
Lyle certainly wasn't selfish in this recent stretch of great play. He was particularly generous running the fast break in his triple-double game against Rutgers.
"He was very simple, in terms of his approach," Matta said in a press conference, Friday. "In transition, he slowed up a little bit to let guys run. Hopefully he'll stay with that mindset."
An example of what Matta's talking about – Lyle patiently waits for Tate to pin his defender in the post while also creating enough space for a pull-up jumper:
Rutgers also mixed in a 1-3-1 zone, which I haven't seen any opponent try against Ohio State. Lyle knew the back door lob would be open. Bates-Diop is on the receiving end, sprung by a Thompson screen:
Defense Struggles in College Park
Lyle's offensive contributions against Maryland didn't really matter; Ohio State needed stops on the other end. The Buckeyes allowed the Terrapins to hit 63 percent of their shots from the field and over half of their attempts from three.
The Terps didn't anything complicated from a scheme standpoint.
"Maryland didn't have to call a real complex game because whatever they called seemed to work for them," Matta said, following the game. "When you have a point guard like Trimble, our bigs have to hold longer since he's so good with the ball. Your help side has to be there and we weren't there."
Ohio State struggled all day defending high pick-and-rolls with Trimble as the ball-handler. He only had eight points, none coming in the first half. OSU forced Trimble to get rid of the ball, and the help defense wasn't good enough with Thompson constantly stranded so far away from the rim:
This pocket pass was a difficult one, considering the lack of space and how some big men often struggle to catch a pass off the bounce. Once Diamond Stone was able to secure the ball, however, the roll went mostly unimpeded to the basket:
Ohio State consistently scrambled to protect the rim, to prevent dribble penetration and cover three-point shooters. Here, Marc Loving lets Rasheed Sulaimon drive into the middle of the defense to find a wide-open Jared Nickens:
Purdue, Penn State and Illinois' guards aren't nearly as skilled off the dribble, but Maryland comes to Columbus at the end of the month. If Ohio State wants payback, they'll have to begin by closing off driving lanes and containing the Trimble-Stone pick-and-roll.