After the Florida State game, the team's leading returning scorer sits fifth on the team with an average of 11.0 points per game. His shooting percentage of 42.6 is lower than his career average (44.2) entering the season and his three-point percentage is drastically lower – 28.6 percent this year compared to 37.2 in the previous two seasons.
This is not to say that Buford is not a very good player. He clearly is. But after he spent time practicing against Team USA during the summer, he told me he had picked up some tricks that he would not discuss in advance. I would have to wait and see, he said, and immediately I started to wonder what wrinkles he had added to his game.
Unfortunately, I think we are all still waiting. It is clear that Buford is still trying to find his way this season for reasons that are unclear. In the absence of Evan Turner, it is David Lighty who has taken the ball in key situations and not Buford. Lighty has clearly improved his game from a season ago.
Granted, Buford missed one game with back spasms and looked to be working his way back into shape in his return against Miami (Ohio), but he still does not yet look like the player I think we all expected to see this season.
After the win against the Seminoles, Matta said he saw a fire in Buford's eyes before the game that he had not seen in a while. That very much could have been true, but foul trouble essentially took him out of the flow of the game.
We saw Buford struggle with his shot in the early going last season and he and his teammates predicted that it would come around. It did. I have no reason to believe that Buford will not shake off the cobwebs and find his way back toward the top of the scoring sheet.
When he does, this OSU team gets even more potent – and that could be a scary thought. Adding consistent effort from Buford to the package head coach Thad Matta already has in Jared Sullinger, David Lighty and the rest could be a nightmare for other Big Ten coaches.
I think … that it was impressive to see the Buckeyes respond the way that they did against the Seminoles, especially given the youth on the court at times. When it comes to having a young team, Matta always references a specific situation to measure their heart.
What happens, he asks, when they are playing on the road and the opposing team mounts a 6-0 run? How do they respond?
After FSU put together a 7-0 run to cut OSU's lead to 10 points, we got an answer. Although the Buckeyes had their next two shots blocked, the Buckeyes forced a turnover and dodged a bullet when the Seminoles missed a three-pointer.
Then freshman Aaron Craft – pressed into extensive duty due to Buford's foul trouble – buried a three-pointer from the left wing to push the lead back to 13 points.
FSU would cut it to seven just one more time from there but it was not until the final moments of the game when it was too late. That was a big-time trey from a young player who was knocked for his shooting ability when he arrived on campus.
It was a great answer.
I think … that a lot of credit has to go to Sullinger for the victory. As I wrote on the site earlier in the day – and a few times this season – the freshman has repeatedly told us to judge his effort on a given night by how many rebounds he comes up with.
In a game where each rebounds was going to be vital, he was one short of his season-high with 13 boards. His six offensive rebounds tied a season high as well. The big man was battling in the paint, and it clearly showed.
If the basketball team gave out buckeye decals like the football team does, he would have earned at least a dozen for his effort in this one.