After playing well on the offensive end of the floor for much of non-conference play, stringing together seven consecutive double-digit outings at one point, Ohio State senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. struggled in the 17th-ranked Buckeyes’ first six Big Ten games.
Reaching double figures in three of their six games entering Thursday’s matchup with Illinois, Smith shot 4-for-25 from three and 35.1% from the field overall. Given the Buckeyes’ lack of a marquee scoring option they need multiple players to step up offensively, and that includes Smith.
So if there’s anything to be taken from the Buckeyes’ 62-55 win over the Fighting Illini, it may be the fact that Smith snapped out of his slump in helping Ohio State end its four-game losing streak.
Smith scored 16 points on the night, making four of his eight shot attempts from beyond the arc, to supplement the 18 scored by LaQuinton Ross. Ross scored 14 of his 18 in the second half, and as a team Ohio State shot 54.2% from the field and 5-for-9 from three in the game’s final 20 minutes. While Thad Matta’s team did a better job of working the ball around (eight assists on 13 made baskets) in the second half, the fact of the matter is that they made shots after struggling to do so in losses to Minnesota and Nebraska.
With their improved shooting the Buckeyes scored 1.15 points per possession in the second half after scoring just 0.86 points per possession in the first. Add in some solid defense, which included making sure that the slumping Rayvonte Rice (0-for-8, no points) didn’t get untracked, and the Buckeyes were able to end the program’s longest losing streak since the 2007-08 season.
At this point in the season it’s clear that Ohio State doesn’t have a player capable of taking over offensively in the manner that Deshaun Thomas did a season ago. But with that being the case, the consistency of players such as Ross, Smith and Aaron Craft (11 points, six rebounds and five assists) becomes even more important. Thursday’s win wasn’t the prettiest of results, but given the struggles of Ohio State as a team and Lenzelle Smith Jr. individually it was a night the Buckeyes needed.
Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.
Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.
“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”
While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.
Thursday afternoon marked the first time since Friday that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino commented on the controversy that has taken his program by storm. Speaking with Terry Meiners of 840 WHAS in Louisville, Pitino discussed the escort scandal, what could have possibly led former staffer Andre McGee down the path he’s alleged to have taken in Katina Powell’s book and his future at Louisville.
The interview began with Meiners asking Pitino if it changed his thinking as to whether or not he needed to resign, which (as one would expect) Pitino shot down. Also discussed was the statement released by school president Dr. James Ramsey, which expressed support for athletic director Tom Jurich but did not mention Pitino at all.
“Well I can’t answer that, Terry,” Pitino said when asked why he wasn’t mentioned in the statement. “Twenty-six years ago Kentucky brought me in to make the program compliant to NCAA rules. (Then-Kentucky president) Dr. (David) Roselle and (then Kentucky athletic director) C.M. Newton thought I was the guy to come in and change around the images, change around the culture and add a lot of discipline to the program. And I did that.
“And then I came here to the University of Louisville, and if someone was five seconds late or not early consequences would be paid from a disciplinary standpoint,” Pitino continued. “This is obviously not a person being late, this is not about a person (not) working hard. This is about things that are very disgusting, things that turn my stomach, things that keep me up without sleeping.
“But unfortunately, I had no knowledge of any of this and don’t believe in it. It’s sickening to me, the whole thing. But I’m thinking of my 13 players, I’m thinking of our program, and I’m sorry that Dr. Ramsey did not think enough to mention me but that’s something I cannot control.”
Below is audio of the full interview, which ran just over 17 minutes in length.