First Thoughts From a 63-60 Loss to Wisconsin
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — As far as unexpected outcomes go, this was certainly one of them. I never saw a loss for the Buckeyes coming, and apparently Ohio State never saw it coming either.
We watched a team that reminded me of my college days—doing just enough to get by. Eventually, however, you take a class that has different plans for you.
The Buckeyes turned the ball over ten times in the first half, yet only twice in the second half. But the damage was already done. Wisconsin was confident and Ohio State was unsettled.
Even when the Buckeyes got out to their 50-42 lead, the Badgers were still calm. They closed the game on a 21-10 run to win it, and didn't seem all that shocked to do so. Ohio State, on the other hand, was either glassy-eyed due to the outcome, or their indifference to it.
Obviously not everybody has checked out on this team, but you have to think maybe a few have. Following the game, I was thinking that this is maybe just a glimpse at a team that is done with the regular season and wanting to move on to the NCAA Tournament.
After all, you only have to win six games, and you only have to be great in your last three games. This is a team that is certainly talented enough to flip a switch and be very good for three games and great for three more.
However, after reading postgame comments from Aaron Craft, specifically about outside issues and bad practices, I can't come to any other conclusion than some members of this team are ready to move on.
It's okay to lose games, every team does it, but this was a bad loss, and the Badgers didn't do it alone. They had plenty of help from the Buckeyes, and it's not a good trend for Ohio State if they want to do anything in the postseason this year.
Deshaun Thomas finished with 23 points and seven rebounds, yet what many will remember of him from this game is his double-pump three-point attempt in the final 30 seconds. Yes, it was a bad shot, but that's where the play was designed. It was simply defended well.
But if that's all you want to remember from Thomas in this game, then that's a ridiculous stance to take. He was the only consistent offensive threat for the Buckeyes, and his 23 points were a game high.
With this being William Buford's last home game, and likely Jared Sullinger's as well, there has been chatter that this could also be it for Thomas.
If that's the case, then it would be a great disappointment to everyone who wants to see what Thomas could do if he was this team's main scoring threat.
We've seen him score in a number of ways this season, and he has been a dominating scorer at times, but leaving for the NBA before he got to showcase his talents completely would be a mistake. He's just not ready.
Not to mention the fact that he would have to guard NBA small forwards, and he struggles to handle skilled power forwards in the Big Ten at the moment.
Thomas' stock can only go up with another year in college, but it just depends on whether or not he wants to put off the pay day.
Some people criticize Jared Sullinger for forcing shots, and while I can't deny that he certainly does force shots, I tend to think much of it comes after being completely ignored on offense for a number of possessions in a row.
The cure for this would seem to be making sure that the Buckeyes don't go possessions without involving Sullinger in the offense.
I understand that the Buckeyes have same talented scorers, but they all need others to get them the ball in order for them to score. They realize that their offense is started by others, so they should also realize that their teammates need help from them to get their own offense going.
You would think this would bring about extra passes and passing up good shots for great shots. But if that was the case, the Buckeyes would never have a game with just ten assists.
This is not a selfish team, but that doesn't mean they couldn't stand to be more selfless. An extra pass gets more players involved and keeps them from feeling like they need to force a shot when they finally get the ball.
That being said, I think this team could also stand to have Thad Matta grab them by the neck and shake them every now and again.
It's not a coincidence—William Buford starts the game 2-2 from the field and the Buckeyes are playing well early. He then proceeds to make two of his final nine shot attempts and the Buckeyes lose a close one.
It's a pretty perfect example of Ohio State's fortunes this season where Buford is concerned.
But this is not William Buford's loss, it's a team loss. It's just hard not to see the connection when the Buckeyes mirror Buford in actions and subsequent results.
How many times did we see Jared Berggren take an open three while Jared Sullinger watched from the free throw line?
I'm puzzled by this. Sullinger isn't a shot blocker, and admittedly doesn't want to get into foul trouble, so he avoids contact when he can defensively. So why would he be sagging so far off of somebody like Berggren repeatedly?
The Buckeyes certainly paid for it as Berggren hit 3-7 threes, including a dagger late, and scored 18 points, which was ten more than Sullinger scored.
I've talked about this before, but if Amir Williams isn't playing because he can't close out on the perimeter, how is that any different than what anybody else does in the front court?
Free throws are free, until you miss them. That's when they cost you.
The Buckeyes were 10-19 from the charity stripe and Sullinger and Craft combined to go 1-7.
I have always said that there is no excuse for a guard to not be a good shooter, and that's especially true at the free throw line.
Heck, look at Greg Oden's freshman season. He taught himself to shoot left-handed, and he did it fairly well. The only excuse for not being able to shoot is because you don't take it seriously enough.
While everybody wants to talk about this team missing Jon Diebler's shooting touch, I contend that they'd be just fine if they had somebody who could pass into the post as well as he did.
Right now, passes into the post come under the Woody Hayes warning of "two of the three things that can happen are bad".
Isn't it amazing that a team ranked so highly can have so many issues? Or is it that all we're looking for right now are those issues, and so that's all we're finding?
There is no denying that this was a bad loss. However, no team is perfect, and certainly no team would pass a microscopic inspection looking for faults.
As I said, all a team has to do is win six games in a row. Last year, Connecticut lost four of their final five regular season games before winning eleven consecutive postseason games.
This is not a great shooting team, but it is a team that can get hot at the right time in order to survive and advance.
I do believe that this is a team that absolutely wants to get to the postseason, but I don't know if they'll be able to simply flip a switch like they apparently think they can.
Something tells me, however, that we won't have to wait too long to find out one way or the other.
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