Buckeyes Hope to be Connected when Spartans Come Calling
by Patrick Murphy
COLUMBUS, Ohio - It was the Deshaun Thomas show the first meeting between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing, The junior scored 28 of the Buckeyes 56 points and singlehandedly kept them in the game throughout.
Photo by Jim Davidson
He was able to get anything he wanted until Ohio State’s final possession. With a chance to tie the game with a three, Thomas missed out on the crucial thing needed to be the hero, the ball.
Shannon Scott drove the court and it appeared the plan was for him to get the ball to Thomas. Instead he hoisted up a desperation shot that did not come close.
That play exemplified something that has become evident with this team: a disconnect with the players on the court. In big games and in important situations all five guys have not been in sync with each other, and it has cost this team to the tune of a 1-7 record against ranked opponents.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. spoke about this issue for the Buckeyes before the game saying, “this year, for some reason, has been the hardest year for us to find five guys connected.”
“Even to this day I still feel sometimes we’re not connected out there on the floor,” he continued. “You’ve got guys doing their own thing or worrying about something other than winning this game.”
Thad Matta’s teams always seem to play well heading into March. This team, though, has yet to play consistent basketball against good opposition and is having issues with on-court chemistry. That is not a recipe for success in college basketball.
In discussing this issue, Matta pointed out that the team was better in their most recent game against Minnesota.
“We had some possessions the other night where five guys were connected on both ends of the floor,” he said.
He also stressed that the performance against the Gophers was better, but not perfect.
While perfection is unattainable, this team will likely have to be as close as possible on Sunday when the number four ranked Spartans come to town (4:00 PM ET, CBS).
The Spartans have talent at every position and do not let up when they go to their bench. The Buckeyes have not won much against teams like that.
“Gary Harris, their freshman guard, he’s a really good player,” Smith said when asked what makes Michigan State so good.
“Dawson’s a really good player and then they still have Nix down there is the post. Plus Adreian Payne has really been picking it up, so all around they have a great team.”
This is a team that took Indiana – who beat the Buckeyes by 13 on the road – to the wire last week and only lost by four. As they always do, the Spartans have learned from tough early-season tests and become better for it throughout Big Ten play.
“We’re playing a great basketball team and hopefully these guys comprehend that we have to play a certain way in order to be effective,” Matta said.
That certain way is defense first, get stops. That leads to offensive opportunities for the Scarlet and Grey and gets them in their rhythm.
“Last game, we had three or four shot clock violations, that ignites everything for us,” Smith said. “We get a team to have a shot clock violation; we’re going to come down on offense and score. It just happens that way.”
When the five players on the court are connected the defense is where it needs to be. This allows this team to get out in transition and have other guys scoring beside Thomas.
To have a chance against the Spartans, the Buckeyes will have to do just that.