Saturday marked another opportunity for Ohio State’s basketball team to pick up a marquee victory over a Top 25 team.
Saturday marked another opportunity where Ohio State turned in an excellent defensive performance. Saturday marked another opportunity where Deshaun Thomas had no problem finding the basket.
Saturday marked another opportunity where nobody else on the Buckeyes roster could score at all.
Finally, Saturday marked another Ohio State loss against a ranked opponent, the fourth in five tries.
Michigan State defended home court against the Buckeyes to the tune of 59-56. Thomas scored 28 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including an impressive 6-of-11 mark from downtown.
The rest of the team also scored 28 points—albeit combined—on 9-of-27 shooting.
Clearly that is not a winning recipe, especially in a loaded Big Ten, where teams feed off their physical defense and ability to lock down the opponent.
Thomas leads the Big Ten in scoring at 20.8 points a night. However, Lenzelle Smith Jr. is the only other Buckeye in double figures, and his mark of 10.1 points per game has been trending downward since conference play began.
Aaron Craft, who many Ohio State fans hoped would be a focal point of the offense this year, has been sporadic shooting the ball at best and particularly struggled in the Michigan State and Duke games.
The overdependence on Thomas is a concern for Thad Matta and his team for a number of reasons.
For one, it is easy for the tenacious defenses in the Big Ten to lock down a team with only one scorer.
For example, Michigan threw a zone at the Buckeyes after Ohio State jumped out to a 28-9 lead. Michigan clawed all the way back and almost won because nobody but Thomas could do anything in the half court against the zone.
Furthermore, Duke ran a handful of double teams at Thomas, which frustrated the Buckeyes star and prevented the team’s offense from getting into a rhythm in the second half.
Another concern with Ohio State’s one-man offensive attack is the fact that the young players who were, and still are, so critical to the Buckeyes’ season haven’t had the chance to develop as scorers.
Fans had visions of LaQuinton Ross turning into a legitimate threat from behind the three-point line or driving the ball in the lane, and that just hasn’t consistently been the case yet.
Additionally, Amir Williams hasn’t been the force in the middle many hoped he would be, and he shot a grand total of zero shots against the Spartans.
A third problem—and this is somewhat of a stretch—comes in the form of next season.
What are the Buckeyes going to do if Thomas elects to go pro after the NCAA tournament? All of these young potential stars are well into their second seasons and not producing the points many envisioned for them.
It will be even more difficult to score next year without Thomas to draw the defense’s attention.
I’m sure Matta and his staff are well aware of the problem the offense has posed this year. There are smarter basketball minds than me diligently working in the halls of the basketball complexes on campus in Columbus on a solution to the Scarlet and Gray’s offensive woes.
Because if they aren’t, plenty of losses still await Ohio State in Big Ten play.