First Thoughts From a 71-40 Win Over Nebraska
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — This game was never competitive, despite Ohio State trying to make it so by turning the ball over 19 times and shooting 2-17 from three-point territory.
Watching the game, I had to keep reminding myself that this was actually a Big Ten team that the Buckeyes were playing, and not Coppin State or some such rabble.
In the end, Ohio State held Nebraska to 30.8% shooting and won by 31 points, despite turning the ball over just about every other time down court.
It wasn't quite the wakeup call from the Indiana game that most were looking for, because they still looked a little groggy offensively, but what kind of standards do you have to hold your team to against Nebraska?
First Thought - I like this starting five, but they lack the athleticism of an elite team. Think about it, there's nobody in the starting five that can be a recipient of a half-court alley-oop pass and finish with a dunk.
Granted, that specifically is not going to keep them from winning a championship, but it certainly limits what they can do on a fast break. Even as it is, many of their fast breaks are almost slow motion, unless it's a two-on-one situation.
Much of Thad Matta's system of playing four perimeter players requires that there be a freak athlete or two in the crowd to pick up whatever slack is needed. Lenzelle Smith provides some of that, but not enough.
As long as the Buckeyes keep shooting 54% from the field and out-rebounding their opponents by 24, it won't matter. Still, their work will be cut out for them this season against the one or two athletic teams that they play this year.
Hard-Working Thought - It's pretty apparent that Lenzelle Smith has worked on his shooting because he's been taking three-pointers (and making them) without hesitation for a few weeks now.
Early in the season he was as much a thinker as a shooter, but now he's firing up shots when he gets a good, solid look at the basket.
I really didn't expect him to be much of a shooter this year, but he seems set on being more than just the "high energy guy" who plays defense and does the little things. That's especially nice to see since it's those aspects that got him on the floor to begin with.
Clearly, he is now trying to find things to do to keep him on the floor.
A Passing Thought - What was with the resoundingly lazy passing tonight from the Buckeyes, specifically William Buford and Shannon Scott?
If you're going to telegraph your passes, you better make them perfect. If you're going to throw telegraphed one-handed passes, you better put quite a bit of zip on them.
None of this was done, however, as evidenced by Buford and Scott's nine combined turnovers.
Speaking of Scott, along with his three turnovers he was also 0-5 from the field. He was shooting so well early in the season, so I expect his touch to eventually come back, but I wonder how much he is pressing right now.
He's getting good minutes, so I think he just needs to settle down before he actually starts losing minutes.
Forced Thought - While I enjoyed watching William Buford take the ball to the basket in the first half, I don't think anybody enjoyed his turnovers on a few of those drives.
Rather than continuing on to the basket and taking a shot, Buford chose to dish the ball off. That's fine, provided the passes are good ones. Tonight, they weren't.
With Buford's six turnovers and 0-5 shooting from three-point land, fans will be on him yet again. But don't forget that he finished 6-11 from the field, grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists in this game as well.
Long-Range Thought - Ohio State shot 2-17 from three-point land tonight. Paint that anyway you like, every color comes out ugly.
When those two baskets come from your least-likely shooters in Lenzelle Smith and Jared Sullinger, that's concerning.
We all know that Deshaun Thomas can't hit his first three-pointer because it's always a foot too long, so his miss is forgiven. But Buford's 0-5 is hard to swallow, as is Jordan Sibert's 0-3.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, they shot 28-39 (72%) from two-point land and destroyed the Huskers in the paint.
We know that this type of shooting outing is all too possible with the Buckeyes this year, but they'll generally have enough talent to overcome any cold perimeter shooting.
But if they aren't cutting down the nets at the end of the season, take a look at how they shot from three-point territory in that particular game, and you might not be surprised by what you see.
Final Thought - I'm getting the feeling that Thad Matta is enjoying the mix-and-match nature of his team this year. He looks like a chef that only ever used salt for seasoning, and then he finally discovered the spice rack.
He's got a dash of Shannon Scott here. A pinch of Amir Williams there. A skosh of Sam Thompson, and just a smidge of J.D. Weatherspoon.
Heck, he even had 6'8" LaQuinton Ross playing shooting guard for the final two minutes of the game.
Let's just hope Matta doesn't feel the need to revert back to salting the earth of his bench as the season goes on.
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