Breaking Down Ohio State’s Loss in East Lansing
By Brandon Castel
EAST LANSING, Mich. — It was a battle for the ages up at the Breslin Center on Saturday night. It wasn’t always pretty, except when Deshaun Thomas had the ball in hands, but it was 40 minutes of rugged, physical Big Ten basketball.
In the end, Michigan State held on thanks to a misfire from Shannon Scott on an ill-advised three with four seconds on the clock. The Buckeyes fall to 13-4 on the season and 3-2 in Big Ten play with their 59-56 loss in East Lansing.
Here is our player-by-player breakdown of that game.
The Starting 5
23 Amir Williams (6-11, So.) — This certainly was not the best game of the season for Amir Williams – it wasn’t his worst either, but definitely not his best performance. Williams got the start again at center, but gave them little to nothing in terms of production on Saturday. The sophomore big man contributed one points and three rebounds in 19 minutes against Michigan State. He didn’t seem to match the Spartans' energy or physicality to start the game, and Matta quickly went with senior Evan Ravenel off the bench. Williams did give them some good defense on Adreian Payne during certain stretches, but overall he just did not contribute enough for the Buckeyes, who were outscored 34-14 in the paint.
Photo by Jim Davidson
1 Deshaun Thomas (6-7, Jr.) — What can be said about Thomas in this game except straight Beast Mode. He was feeling it early and often against the Spartans, but give Thomas some credit for diversifying his game a little bit. Yes, he took 11 threes and connected on six of them, but he also put a nice post move on Payne and showed he could put the ball on the floor a little bit. He finished with 20 shots but it should have been 40. His teammates were just 9-27 from the floor and he can only continue to trust them for so long. Tom Izzo’s biggest mistake was that he decided not to double Thomas, instead letting Payne play him one-on-one for most of the night. Payne is at least three inches taller than Thomas, but that didn’t stop him shooting over the big man out of Dayton. He also went by him and really did a nice job of making Payne chase him around the court as he came off screens. He called himself a mismatch nightmare and that’s exactly what he was. He really worked hard to get good looks and did a great job on the pick-and-pop against Michigan State, finishing with 28 points and seven rebounds in 40 minutes.
12 Sam Thompson (6-7, So.) — Thompson is one of the most likable guys on the team and he brings maximum effort and solid defense, but the Buckeyes are getting absolutely nothing on offense from him right now. On Saturday they didn’t even get so much as a rebound from Thompson, who is 6-7 with a 40+ inch vertical. He finished with three points, missed three of his four free throws and had little to no impact on the game in 20 minutes. He’s still growing and getting more comfortable, but how much longer can this team afford to get that type of production from the small forward position?
Photo by Jim Davidson
32 Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (6-4, Jr.) — Smith was pretty much a no-show for most of this game as well, but he showed up at the end when he team needed someone other than Thomas to put the ball in the basket. After going scoreless in the first half with zero rebounds and a pair of bad turnovers, Smith grabbed three boards and knocked down two big threes in the second half. His second one cut Ohio State’s deficit from four down to one with just 13 seconds left in the game. Those are the kinds of shots they need Smith to hit with much more frequency than he has in recent weeks. Six points and three rebounds is simply not enough production from a starting shooting guard who played 30 minutes in this one.
4 Aaron Craft (6-2, Jr.) — Give Craft some credit. Ohio State’s leader did everything he could to will this team to victory in the second half. That included two of his five steals in the final 90 seconds of the game, but he couldn’t connect on a wide-open three in the corner that would have given the Buckeyes a lead in the final seconds. Craft did knock down one shot from behind the arc, but he misfired on four others. He finished the game 2-8 from the floor and 1-5 behind the arc. That didn’t stop him from having a tremendous impact on the game. Craft had six assists and a rebound to go with his five steals, but he also turned the ball over four times. In reality, Craft is never going to the offensive weapon the coaches were hoping he could be, at least not this year. It’s just too much to ask your best defensive player, the leader of your team, and a kid who regularly defends the other team’s best guard to also be your No. 2 scoring option. Craft is what he is right now. He’s incredible defender who impacts the game in a lot of ways, but he’s not a scorer. He may have a night here or there where he gets 15, but it’s not suddenly going to happen every night.
First 3 Off the Bench
Photo by Jim Davidson
3 Shannon Scott (6-1, So.) — Poor Shannon. How can you not feel bad for the kid? That was a tough moment for him at the end of the game. He had played pretty well up to that point and was clearly a catalyst for the Buckeyes in the first half when he sparked that 15-0 run they used to get back in the game. The offense seems to run better whenever Scott has the ball in his hands, and he needs to be playing more than 21 minutes a game. It’s tough to take Craft off the floor, but Scott seems so much more comfortable when he knows he’s the one running the offense. He had five points, five assistants and two rebounds Saturday, but he was just 1-5 from the floor with three turnovers. That’s not a great night for Scott, but he’s still growing and becoming more comfortable. He showed poor awareness on that final play, but Ohio State fans should hope he bounces back strong instead of letting it mess with his confidence. This team needs him to come along a little more every day.
30 Evan Ravenel (6-8, Sr.) — Ravenel gave them some decent minutes off the bench Saturday. He isn’t much of a scoring threat in the low post, but he did post up a few times and finished with three points and four rebounds in 21 minutes. He also had four fouls, and always seems to pick up the cheap ones instead of the physical fouls that make guys think twice about coming into the paint. Ravenel does a nice job of getting in the way on defense and taking some charges, and he’s starting to so show he can pop out and hit a jumper from 12-15 feet, but he’s not going to be more than complimentary player, even on a good night.
10 LaQuinton Ross (6-8, So.) — Ross continues to show he isn't quite ready to be what this team needs as a No. 2 scoring option, and as a result he typically doesn’t see the court much in the second half. They have to find a way to get him more minutes so he gets more comfortable. It will help them not only this year, hopefully by tournament time, but especially next year. He's the only other natural scorer on this team outside of Thomas. The rest of these guys are who they are, at least for this year. The nine minute stretch to close the first half was huge for Ross, but he got only two minutes in the second half. He’s not a savior, and he still looks uncomfortable out there, but the more he plays the better he will get. That’s not true about all of these guys.
Emptying the Bench
We didn’t get to see either Trey McDonald or Amedeo Della Valle in this game. It looks like Matta is going to roll with Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel as his primary big men, at least for now.
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