First Thoughts From a 58-48 Loss to Michigan State
By Tony Gerdeman
It has been a long time since Ohio State has been manhandled like this (on a basketball court, anyway.) The Spartans appeared to be in control for the entire game.
Yet, through the Buckeyes getting pushed around, pushed up, and pushed down tonight, they would've won had they shot 36% from the field and not 26%.
Open shots were missed. Poor shots were taken. The combination of the two were too much to overcome. For as dangerous as Michigan State seemed on offense, they only shot 40% themselves.
But the Spartans were the ones who were always in control. They never had any panic on their faces. They didn't force up quick shots. They were never made to pay for any defensive lapses.
It was a team of veterans in a road game that they knew was going to be tough. They didn't come into this game with, perhaps, a little too much confidence. They didn't spend their time looking for calls. They played for all 40 minutes, and they won because of it.
The trio of Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas and William Buford were 12-39 from the field. They combined for 29 points.
There's usually a good chance that one of these three is going to have an off night shooting, but when all three struggle, there will rarely be a happy ending.
Watching the game, I felt like the Buckeyes were dominated. However, how dominated could they be when they consistently missed good looks at the basket?
There was only a three-rebound difference favoring Michigan State, so it's not like Ohio State was dominated on the glass. The Spartans actually had more turnovers than the Buckeyes, so it wasn't there either.
The domination came where Buckeye fans would least expect it--it came in the paint. It came where Sullinger dominates, where Thomas has been effective, and where Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith are finishing their drives to the basket.
Ohio State only scored twelve points in the paint, and they lost because of it.
Thad Matta went back to the seven-man rotation that he has used for most of his career. Some may question the lack of bench usage in this game, but I would ask who else should have played?
The game seemed too big at times for Ohio State's veterans, so how were reserves going to handle it?
And what were you going to get from the bench?
Was Amir Williams going to be able to chase Draymond Green all over the court? Thad Matta has already said that Williams doesn't close out on three-point shooters yet.
Could he have turned to Jordan Sibert in order to find a shooter? Perhaps, but Sibert hasn't seen much of the court in 2012, and he hasn't been much of a shooter yet either.
Sam Thompson doesn't stretch a defense, he clogs the paint when his man sags off of him.
The team was simply limited tonight, and when your scorers can't hit anything, there aren't a lot of answers to be found.
I know it's almost sacrilegious to talk about Aaron Craft's basketball abilities from a negative bent, but a point guard's job is to make scoring easier for his team, and it's been a while since he was able to do that for the Buckeyes.
Craft has only had more than four assists twice in Big Ten play, and over his last six games, he has sixteen assists and eleven turnovers.
Sometimes that can be explained away by poor shooting, but if a point guard drives the lane, and gets the ball to a teammate in good position, it's hard to miss a layup.
Craft can't let himself turn into a Jamar Butler type of point guard who just dribbles the ball at the top of the key and never drives. Butler could survive doing that because he was a good shooter. Craft isn't the shooter that Butler was. Besides, he can get to the basket too well not to do it more.
Ohio State's scorers struggle to score on their own, which means they obviously need help at times. Craft should be the one supplying this help.
Everybody wants him to be more aggressive on offense, but that doesn't even have to include scoring. I think he should definitely score more, but there's no way he should be averaging three assists per game over the last month.
It seemed that the Buckeyes were expecting emotion to carry them a lot further than it did tonight. Being down by ten points and then getting a basket and a turnover would bring the crowd alive, but the Spartans would never let things get too hairy.
Michigan State never let the emotion of the game get to them. They played with smiles the entire time. They were basketball psychopaths.
Emotions are nice, but there's something to be said for a cold-blooded basketball team that enjoys inflicting misery upon those around them.
Defending skilled post players continues to be a problem for this team. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, Draymond Green decided to defend himself for much of the night with his poor shot selection.
It's pretty clear that when Ohio State loses for the final time this season, it will come at the hands of a team with post players who can score.
Michigan State's front court outperformed the Ohio State front court by a considerable margin tonight, and they did it on both ends of the floor.
A performance like this should motivate everybody, but talent like Michigan State's will always be difficult to negate.
However, that will never excuse the way that Ohio State's post players were getting beaten down the floor tonight.
Be Careful What You Wish For Thought
I've often talked about Deshaun Thomas' slow starts, but maybe we shouldn't have been looking that gift horse in the mouth so hard.
Thomas started the game by hitting a twelve-footer right off of the opening tip. He then went scoreless for the rest of the half.
Then, to open the second half, he hit another quick jumper. Again, those were his only points in the half.
I said last time that Matta should draw up the first play of the game for Thomas, which he apparently did. But if you'll recall, I said that shot should come from the three-point line. Matta clearly missed that part, therefore Thomas' recalibration was way off, and it showed for the next 39 minutes and 52 seconds.
Note: When you spend a second or two complaining to a ref for a perceived "missed call" on a shot that you just took, you will get beaten down the court. That person beating you down court will then score. End of note.
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