Ohio State men's basketball has failed to score 60 points or more in consecutive games a total of three times in the last ten seasons.
The earliest of these three took place during the 2012-2013 season. The Buckeyes were led by Deshaun Thomas, who averaged almost 20 points per game, and by Aaron Craft who, uh... did not. Thomas and Craft (who was putting up 10 points per contest) were the only two players in double figures on a roster that included such luminaries as LaQuinton Ross, Amir Williams, and Shannon Scott, which was a perfect storm for the Buckeyes to miss the 60 point threshold two games in a row.
They actually won the first game! Dumping on a pretty great Michigan team, 56-53, Deshaun Thomas scored 20 and everyone else just kind of stood around. Next up was Sparty and this time the result was almost identical, except that it ended in a Buckeye loss in East Lansing, 56-59. Deshaun scored 28 and while this may come as a shock, everyone else just kind of dicked around for 40 minutes.
The next two game offensive twin turds came in the 2014-2015 seasons, again to Michigan and Michigan state. The Buckeyes lost twice, but this time, the losses were glorious team efforts. Against Michigan State, for example, Thad Matta got three (that's three with a 3) points from his bench in 28 collective minutes played. Against Michigan, Sam Thompson, Keita Bates-Diop, and D'Angelo Russell had good games, but the rest of the team went 6-20 from the floor.
This season? Well, congrats on the super gritty win against the Hoosiers in Bloomington, but if you follow that up with an absolute turd against a bad Illinois team, I waddle online and write posts like this one.
For me, the moral of the story is twofold. 14-15 taught me that you need a true scoring leader. D'Angelo Russell was thrust into that role, but as amazing as he was, he was forced to be all things to all people at all times. His highs were extremely high, but his lows could cost you a game.
Which leads me to what 12-13 taught me, which is that a true scoring leader isn't enough. Deshaun Thomas was out there, night after night, scoring a bajillion points, and sometimes it just didn't matter at all because he was surrounded by four other dudes for whom the concept of putting the ball in the hoop was an intriguing theory not yet proven by science.
So, present day.
Ohio State just lost badly to Illinois. Not by a lot, but to a bad team. What does Chris Holtmann, at this point in the season, try and do about this?
This is a player's stat line across 10 conference games this calendar year. How many minutes per game do you think he averages? 4.3 pts/g, 2.5 reb/g, 1.5 ast/g, 1.8 tov/g on .387/.182/.875 shooting. pic.twitter.com/4vGlDQEReA— Neil Johnson (@neilmjohnson) February 15, 2019
Probably not a whole hell of a lot!
This is ultimately the issue. Chris Holtmann is a great coach. I'm convinced of that after a season and a half plus of watching his teams absolutely haul ass whether they're up 15 or down by two. He gets them to play to win and maximizes their talent, which is one of the biggest complaints that Ohio State fans had with the end of the Thad Matta tenure.
But here's the thing: you actually need the talent. Keita Bates-Diop had an incredible, mind-bending season last year that caught everyone by surprise and spurred the Buckeyes to success that no one saw coming. It was an awesome way to announce to Big Ten basketball that the Buckeyes ain't dead, not by a long shot, and are still a force to be reckoned with.
Well, Keita is gone, and with him is Ohio State's most consistent scoring threat. In his place are a handful of decent players who look rudderless when Kaleb Wesson isn't on the floor, which is a lot (he's fouled out four times this season and finished with four fouls another eight times).
And that's okay, but what we, as Ohio State fans, need to realize is that the Jimmies and Joes adage of sports is only amplified when you can only have five guys playing at a time. Chris Holtmann's rebuilding of the Ohio State men's basketball program will continue, because despite the cool healing salve of KBD, the cupboard is pretty bare.
The Buckeyes will be good, even great, under Chris Holtmann, and probably soon. But it's going to take the continued overhaul of the personnel that he can put on the court, and that process will play itself out over the next season or so.
Until then, let's all just get comfortable with games like last night.