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.
Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.
With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.
“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”
Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.
While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.
LSU football and Leonard Fournette are off to a strong start this fall, but the beginning of October also means that college hoops is right around the corner. If you’re a Tigers basketball fan, you also have plenty to be excited about on the hardwood this season with the arrival of a loaded freshman class headlined by forward Ben Simmons.
While the versatile Simmons has solidified a spot in the starting lineup for next season, it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Johnny Jones uses the rest of his talented freshmen. In a story from Sheldon Mickles of the New Orleans Advocate, he looks into some potential LSU starting lineups.
Freshman guard Antonio Blakeney, a McDonald’s All-American with Simmons, is also expected to start, but does another talented freshman guard, Brandon Sampson get a shot to start? And what of Arizona transfer Craig Victor when he’s eligible to play in December?
Mickles believes the early favorite for starting lineup is guards Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Blakeney, Simmons and center Darcy Malone. When Victor returns, Mickles said Victor could push Simmons into the “center” position, which would be a matchup nightmare on the opposition because Simmons would be very tough for many college centers to defend.
Sampson also gets a mention from Mickles of having the potential to start down the line. Overall, a good problem to have for Jones and he’ll have to experiment to see which lineups are giving him the most. Having a productive starting five is nice, but I’m sure Jones would love to find the five players he wants to close with.