Four days removed from its 52-35 win over No. 17 Marquette, the eighth-ranked Ohio State men’s basketball team (3-0) will return to action on Wednesday for a home tipoff with 1-1 American University (7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network). On Tuesday, Buckeyes head coach Thad Matta and junior point Shannon Scott helped preview their team’s upcoming non-conference tilt.
Eyeing The Eagles
In American, Ohio State will be facing a team that runs an offense that the Buckeyes are more than plenty familiar with. Using the talent-equalizing Princeton attack, Big Ten foe Northwestern has presented OSU with problems in recent years, which is something that the Eagles will attempt to do with similar sets.
“That’s going to be fun to guard, like always,” Scott said sarcastically of American’s Princeton offense. “We have to be really sound on defense. We can’t gamble like we normally probably would. I know for myself, I like to get in the passing lane and I probably can’t do that too much or they’re going to backdoor it. Just playing honest defense and staying between the man and the basket’s going to be a huge key for us.”
When facing such attack, Matta admitted that there is some give and take. While the Buckeyes may surrender some baskets that they normally wouldn’t, the overarching goal for OSU will be to stick with its assignments and play with the principles that its head coach has instilled.
“The cutting is unique. You’ve got five guys out there that can shoot and I think 47 percent of their field goal attempts are threes,” Matta said. “It’s one of those deals where you may give up a layup. You may give up a three here or there. It’s the possession after possession after possession of doing what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to do it.”
Defense wasn’t much of an issue for the Buckeyes in their first week of the season, which was capped off with Ohio State holding Marquette to an 18.9 percent shooting performance on Saturday. A coach who keeps that end of the floor at the front of his mind at all times, Matta was obviously excited by his team’s most recent outing, which ended the nation’s longest home winning streak.
“I thought we were tuned in and as dialed in as we could possibly be,” said Matta. “We told our guys going into the game that it wasn’t going to be real complex and that there were certain things we had to do every time down the floor. I thought guys used their length, their athleticism, and they understood what we were trying to take away.”
Despite the Buckeyes’ seemingly perfect defensive outing, Scott suggested that there is still room for improvement for OSU. Film never lies, and the junior point guard said that there is plenty evidence that suggests that his team has some work to do when it comes to putting together a complete game.
“We just gotta stay consistent with defense. There were times during the game that we actually saw on film where we just kind of got lazy,” Scott said. “We stopped wanting to win like we were at other times. We have to play defense the whole 40 minutes we’re on the court.”
One area of concern that the Buckeyes saw during their trip to Milwaukee was the uninspired play of LaQuinton Ross. The junior forward finished scoreless, missing all six of his field goal attempts, and sat out the final 13 minutes of the game as freshman forward Marc Loving played in his place.
On Tuesday, Matta said that Ross’ benching wasn’t entirely performance based, as the 6-8 wing has been slowed down by a nagging left knee injury.
“He’s pretty banged up right now, to be honest with you,” Matta said. “I didn’t say like, ‘Oh your knee hurts, you’re not going to play,” but I knew in the back of my mind the more we could rest him, the better he would be.”
That’s not to say that Ross’ struggles weren’t completely out of his control. As a player not known for being gun shy, Ross has a reputation of forcing the action at times, which is just fine by his head coach.
“He was trying to get himself going,” Matta admitted. “Q’s always in his time here kind of forced some things, and I’m down with that. He’s a guy that can make difficult plays.”
As Ross’ teammate and roommate, Scott isn’t the least bit worried about Ross’ early season slump. While he may only be averaging eight points per game, there seems to be an overwhelming sense in the OSU locker room that the light will come on for the Wooden Award preseason watch list selection, sooner rather than later.
“I think ‘Q’ will be fine honestly. He’s been a scorer his whole life. Just him having one off scoring game is really not going to stop him from trying to score,” Scott said. “I know what his attitude is. He’s going to keep going at it every game. That’s the great thing about him. He’s not going to let a couple of games get to him. He’s going to stay positive and do what he has to do to make sure we succeed as a team.”