Shooting issues plague No. 22 Ohio State in loss at Penn State

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Since the start of Big Ten play one of the questions concerning No. 22 Ohio State was who would provide the perimeter shooting needed to factor into the Big Ten race. With the lack of a quality scoring threat in the post thanks to Deshaun Thomas’ early departure, those shot-makers became even more important for Thad Matta’s team.

Entering Thursday’s game at Penn State the Buckeyes ranked seventh in the Big Ten in three-point shooting, making just 32.8% of its attempts in conference play. Ohio State shot even worse from beyond the arc in Happy Valley, making five of their 17 attempts, and this combined with an off night from the foul line factored into the 65-63 defeat.

Penn State’s D.J. Newbill, who scored 25 points and hit the game-winning basket in the first meeting, scored 23 points and Tim Frazier added 16 for the Nittany Lions. If anything the area in which Penn State hurt Ohio State was in second-chance points, as they outscored the Buckeyes 15-5.

But even with the productivity of Penn State’s experienced guards and the second-chance points, the problem for Ohio State was their shooting. In addition to the three-point shooting the Buckeyes made 18 of their 27 free throws, with players other than LaQuinton Ross (11-for-13) combining to shoot 7-for-14. Ross (19 points) and Aaron Craft (ten points) were the lone players to score in double figures, but Craft also had to navigate second-half foul trouble while finishing the game with five turnovers.

Penn State was able to do a good job of switching defensive looks, mixing in some zone to go along with their man-to-man, and it did impact the Buckeyes’ effectiveness. A regular season finale against Michigan State represents an opportunity for a quality win before the Big Ten tournament, and a win there would benefit the Buckeyes from a seeding standpoint.

Lenzelle Smith Jr. (2-for-7 FG) and Sam Thompson (3-for-10 FG, no free throw attempts) were both quiet against Penn State, and even with his 19 points Ross shot 4-for-12 from the field. Ohio State clearly has the talent needed to win games, but in order to take that next step this group has to become more consistent offensively.

Syracuse upsets No. 18 UConn as Tyler Lydon stars again

St Bonaventure Syracuse Basketball
AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth
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Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney combined for 34 points as Syracuse overcame an early 10-point deficit to knock off No. 18 UConn in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, 79-76.

The talking point at the end of this game is probably going to end up being UConn’s decision not to foul Syracuse with 36 seconds left on the clock. Trevor Cooney dribbled out the clock and, with six seconds left, missed a 35-foot prayer, the offensive rebound getting corralled by Tyler Roberson, sealing the win.

But that’s not the real story here.

That would be Tyler Lydon, who suddenly looks like he may end up being the difference maker for this Syracuse team.

If you don’t know the name, I don’t blame you. Lydon was a low-end top 100 recruit that had been committed to the Orange for a long time. He’s not exactly a game-changing prospect, but he’s a perfect fit for Syracuse. At 6-foot-9, Lydon has the length to be a shot-blocker in the middle of the 2-3 zone — he entered Thursday averaging 3.3 blocks — but his biggest skill is his ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. When he plays the middle of that zone, when he is essentially the five for the Orange, they become incredibly difficult to matchup with defensively.

The question is whether or not he can consistently be that guy on the defensive end of the floor. Against UConn, Lydon had 16 points and 12 boards. Against Charlotte, he finished with 18 points, eight boards and six blocks. But neither the Huskies nor the 49ers have a big front line that crashes the offensive glass.

Lydon is great at using his length to make shots in the lane difficult, but at (a generous) 205 pounds, he may run into trouble against bigger, stronger front court players.

The perfect test?

Texas A&M, who the Orange will play in the title game on Friday.

USC holds on to beat No. 20 Wichita State

Andy Enfield
Associated Press
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With guards Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet both sidelined due to injury, No. 20 Wichita State arrived at the Advocare Invitational shorthanded. But even with that being the case the highly successful Shockers represented quite the opportunity for USC, and Thursday afternoon the Trojans took advantage.

Despite turning the ball over 23 times Andy Enfield’s team found a way to win, hanging on to beat the Shockers by the final score of 72-69. Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright, a tough matchup for most teams as a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who can score from the perimeter, shot 5-for-9 from three and scored a team-high (and career-high) 22 points.

The tandem of he and junior Nikola Jovanovic, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds, outplayed the Wichita State front court on a day in which the Shockers needed greater contributions from those players. Add in 15 points and four assists from Jordan McLaughlin, ten points off the bench from Katin Reinhardt and a 12-for-23 afternoon from three, and the Trojans were able to do enough to make up for their high turnover count and Wichita State’s 24 points off of turnovers.

Given the absence of VanVleet and Shamet there’s no reason to panic regarding Wichita State. Ron Baker, who was exhausted by the end of the game due to the heavy load he was asked to shoulder, scored a game-high 25 points and the play of freshman Markis McDuffie was a positive to build on.

McDuffie, who entered Thursday’s game without a made field goal in his first two appearances as a Shocker, shot 5-for-9 from the field and contributed 14 points and three rebounds off the bench. With their current perimeter rotation being what it is McDuffie will have opportunities to contribute, and the Shockers will need him to take advantage as they await the returns of VanVleet and Shamet (and the addition of Conner Frankamp).

Doing so will not only help Wichita State in the short term but in the long-term as well, thus giving Gregg Marshall another option to call upon on his bench.

Thursday’s outcome, even with the desire to see more from Anton Grady (eight points, seven rebounds), says more about USC at this point in time than Wichita State. Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm were about amassing the talent needed to compete in the Pac-12 while also gaining valuable (and at times painful) experience. In year three the Trojans hope to take a step forward within the conference, and wins like this one provide evidence of the program’s growth.