A lot of teams would love to have the leading scorer in their conference.
No. 14 Ohio State has Deshaun Thomas, averaging 23.2 points a game in conference play to lead the Big Ten by a wide margin.
The problem for the Buckeyes, who have had difficulty gaining much traction once conference play began, is that they are still on the lookout for somebody to pick up the points left after Thomas gets his allotment.
“Other teams have that second- or third-leading scorer,” Thomas said Monday as the Buckeyes (13-4, 3-2 Big Ten) went through their final paces before hosting Iowa (13-5, 2-3) tonight. “With the offense we’ve got, anybody can score. Everybody thinks it’s a play running for me, but it’s not. In our offense, it’s for everybody to get a shot off.”
The thing is, they often do not. Or, at least they don’t make it if they do get a shot.
No Ohio State player one other than Thomas is averaging more than 8 points a game in conference play. So opposing defenses can concentrate on him and take their chances that even a wide-open teammate may not hurt them.
“With the offenses that we run, there’s definitely multiple options and multiple places for different guys to score,” said point guard Aaron Craft, who is one of three starters not shooting even 40 percent from the field in conference action. “At times we don’t look at those options. We sort of focus on one part of the play — and that’s part of the problem.”
A prime example came Saturday when Thomas, despite heavy pressure from No. 13 Michigan State, scored 28 points — but the rest of the team matched him with 28 points in a 59-56 loss.
Coach Thad Matta, whose new Ohio State contract was announced earlier on Monday, said it was mandatory that the Buckeyes get their points by picking their spots and taking advantage of all the attention that Thomas gets.
“It’s probably going to lend itself to really playing off each other,” he said. “That’s one of the things that we have to continue to do is to play off of each other, making simpler plays, and kind of letting things unfold.”
Matta has agreed to a revised contract which will give him a 10 percent increase to more than $3.2 million annually and includes academic bonuses and more stringent wording about NCAA violations.
With years he had already earned through job performance, the five-time Big Ten champion coach will be under contract through July 2019.