Kaleb Wesson is a hell of a player when he's out of foul trouble and playing at his ceiling, as evidenced most recently by his 27 points in 38 minutes with just two fouls in a blowout of Rutgers, helping Ohio State start the month of February on a positive note after a dreadful January in which the Buckeyes lost six of seven contests.
The problem is, too many other nights see Ohio State's already-subpar scoring offense further hampered by Wesson either stapled to the bench with foul trouble or on the floor but playing tentatively, understandably trying to avoid the next whistle.
Even further, frustration with questionable officiating or simply committing undisciplined fouls such as those 20 feet from the hoop when he over-hedges in response to an opponent's ball screen or like against Illinois when he and Andres Feliz bumped into each other repeatedly in meaningless transition resulting in a double foul.
In the latter instance, Wesson was playing with three fouls and committed an unnecessary fourth by refusing to shy away from repeated contact nowhere near the ball. Ohio State was trailing by three with six minutes left at the time. Less than four game-minutes later, he would foul out with Ohio State trailing by four and the Buckeyes would eventually fall to the Illini at home.
Calling out the latter instance is not to infer Wesson cost Ohio State the game because that would be inaccurate but rather to note his importance to the team and the fact he can be his own worst enemy.
Through 13 Big Ten games, Wesson has committed at least four fouls in eight of them and fouled out of five, including three of the last five.
In four of those eight games in which he was whistled for at least four fouls, Wesson was held to seven points or less and averaged just 23.5 minutes per game.
In the five Big Ten games in which he's managed to commit less than four fouls, he's playing a more palatable 27.8 minutes.
Tied with Kyle Young for the team lead with 0.16 fouls per minute, Wesson's value to the team simply can't afford to be compromised by constant foul trouble limiting his time on the court.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of player development here as Wesson's averaging 26 minutes over the last three games, fouling out of two, while producing just 9.0 points and 3.7 rebounds thanks in large part to being forced to play tentative when nursing fouls.
A gifted scorer who sharpened his three-point shot in the offseason to the tune of 44% so far in Big Ten play, Wesson is ranked 21st in the Big Ten in scoring (13.0) and 20th in rebounding (5.4). How much better could those respectable numbers be if he was able to play another five minutes per game – and really play them hard – without worrying about if/when the next whistle will blow?
The most effective player on the team when he's "right", Wesson is tied for fourth on the squad in minutes during Big Ten action. That's a problem. And Chris Holtmann and Wesson need to solve it ASAP as Ohio State enters the stretch run in search of an NCAA Tournament bid.