Ohio State will struggle if it can’t support Deshaun Thomas

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You can’t fault Deshaun Thomas Sunday. The 6-7 junior scored 26 points, including going 8-of-9 from the free throw line in Ohio State’s 81-68 loss to No. 1 Indiana.

The cause for concern, though, is the point distribution.

Thomas will get his points, as those who lead a major conference in scoring will, but it is the complementary pieces like Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith, Jr., Sam Thompson, and LaQuinton Ross who need to step in and produce.

To Craft’s credit, he had 16 points, but Thomas still accounted for 38.2 percent of Ohio State’s total offensive output, even higher than his usual 27 percent portion of production. Thompson was just 2-of-8 from the floor. Smith, Jr. had six.

Ohio State should be pleased with the progress of Ross, who had 11 points, but the Buckeyes need more of a split like they had in their overtime loss to No. 3 Michigan earlier this week if they want to make a run in the NCAA tournament.

In that loss to Michigan, Thomas accounted for just 22.9 percent of the offensive, helped along by Ross, Craft, and Smith, Jr. in double figures, along with strong single-digit production from Amir Williams and Sam Thompson. It’s that balance that keeps the defensive-minded Buckeyes able to compete.

That is why it may be difficult for some to pick Ohio State to advance deep into March because it’s unclear whether the Buckeyes can string together a series of games against high-level competition with Thomas as the lone go-to scoring option and defense as the focus. This also hurts when Ohio State begins to slip behind, as it did Sunday against Indiana.

Thomas can only do so much. It would be asking a lot of a single player to dig a team out of a 10- or 15-point hole in an NCAA tournament game.

The Buckeyes return to the floor Thursday against Northwestern.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_