I know, I know. Ohio State has only played five games this season, but we learned quite a bit from last night’s 73-68 loss to Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
I am not one for moral victories. The bottom line here is that this was a winnable basketball game for the Buckeyes and a lot of question marks were raised during that second half in which Duke outscored OSU, 50-37.
With that said, you have to look at the bigger picture here. This was a game played early in the season in one of the most difficult environments in all of sports. Duke is a really good team–it had already defeated Louisville and Kentucky before last night.
The better team (at least right now) probably won last night. Come March, though, it may be a different situation.
Obviously, this is not college football. A loss in November does not hurt you come March. What it does, though, is show some early positives and negatives this team needs to work on to reach its ultimate goal.
Here are five things we learned from last night’s loss to the Blue Devils:
1. It is obvious this team is going to struggle to score outside of Deshaun Thomas. So, my question from last night is why was the offense not running through him in the second half when the Buckeyes needed offense? He is the type of player who needs to touch the ball every time down the floor in crunch time situations. As much as well all want Aaron Craft to be an offensive threat, he cannot be relied on for that. It is not his game. He clearly has the potential to have big scoring games, but you simply cannot ask that of him every night. Deshaun Thomas needed many more touches last night.
2. Ohio State can hang with any team in the country because of its defense. The Buckeyes defend at an elite level. Craft, Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson and Lenzelle Smith Jr. on the perimeter can lock down anybody. Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams can do well enough to defend the interior too. This Ohio State team will get after you and they will do it relentlessly for 40 minutes.
3. What happened to LaQuinton Ross? Did he do something at halftime to not deserve to be on the floor during that second half Duke run? It was blatantly obvious that nobody else except for Deshaun Thomas could put the ball in the basket, but Ross had some success in that first half. He finished the game with nine points, but he played just 11 total minutes. When this offensive struggle happens in a future game to OSU (it will, trust me), Ross needs to see some more playing time because he’s the only other player capable of creating his own offense.
4. For a team with not a ton of size, Ohio State is an outstanding rebounding team. Every player on the floor crashes the glass, which is something I loved seeing. Craft, Smith and Thompson are outstanding rebounders for their size on the perimeter. The three of them combined for 17 rebounds last night. Because OSU doesn’t have a ton of size, it will need those three to crash the glass on a consistent basis throughout the season.
5. My final observation is something that may not be fixable this year. The Buckeyes don’t have a knockdown shooter from deep. Deshaun Thomas is probably the best 3-point shooter in the rotation, and he is only a 35.8% shooter for his career. Obviously, Jon Diebler type players do not just grow on trees, but the 3-point shot is a huge part of college basketball. While OSU’s perimeter players are great defenders and very athletic, they struggle shooting the three. This could be a troubling issue all season long.
Overall, I liked what I saw from Ohio State last night. This could come off as somewhat negative feedback, but I hold the Buckeyes to a high standard. Expectations are always high at Ohio State and in order to be a Final Four team, OSU needs to learn from last night’s game.
The Buckeyes have five more games they should win before the Dec. 22 date with Kansas. I don’t know about you, but I’m counting down the days until OSU gets to play the Jayhawks again.