Instead, the question became why the senior again struggled to find much room to operate. Diebler finished with 11 points but attempted only four three-pointers, continuing a trend that has seen the prolific shooter take on a less pronounced role in the OSU offense.
Diebler enters tonight's game having hit on 93 of his 193 three-point attempts for an average of 7.1 per contest. As would be expected, his average attempts in Big Ten play are lower than in non-conference play: 9.1 in the first 13 games of the season compared to 5.4 in league play.
In his last two seasons following what could nicely be described as a struggle of a freshman season, Diebler's average attempts per game have dropped off each year while playing Big Ten foes. This season, however, has seen a bigger difference. As a junior, his average three-point attempts in Big Ten play dropped from 8.1 per game to 6.8 – a difference of 2.3 shots per game. Two seasons ago, it went from 9.7 to 7.3 – a decrease of 2.4.
So why is it that this season his numbers have dropped by an average of 3.7 three-point attempts per game in Big Ten play? Purdue head coach Matt Painter said it is because the Buckeyes boast a balanced offense that does not need Diebler to carry a heavy part of the load.
"They're not a team that runs everything for him and rightfully so because obviously they have Jared Sullinger, they have William Buford, they have a lot of options," he said. "When you have a great team in terms of scorers, not everything is going to get ran for you."
However, his average three-point attempts have dipped even further in his team's past six games. While the Buckeyes have gone 4-2, Diebler has averaged 4.5 attempts.
"With Jon Diebler, he's very unselfish and there's so many other scoring options on that team that he's not going to force it," Ryan said. "Some guys on some teams, they feel that they have to get ‘x' number of shots in order for their team to be successful. I don't see that on Ohio State's team and that's what's made them pretty doggone good because a guy like Diebler does not have to force the shots."
Following Sunday's loss at Purdue, OSU head coach Thad Matta said the Buckeyes have not had as many transition opportunities as of late. Throughout the last few weeks, Matta has pointed out that teams are simply taking an athletic defender and sticking him onto Diebler.
Painter compared Diebler to Minnesota's Blake Hoffarber, a senior who is one spot behind the Buckeye in three-pointers made in Big Ten play. Through 14 Big Ten games, Hoffarber is 33 of 83 (39.8 percent). His numbers are below his career averages in part because he has had to handle some of the point guard responsibilities left vacant when Al Nolen went out with a foot injury seven games ago.
In Big Ten play, the average number of three-pointers attempted by the Golden Gopher marksman is down from 7.6 to 5.9. Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith said it is easier to take away a gifted shooter like Hoffarber or Diebler than it is to neutralize a player who makes his living in the paint.
"Blake is a good athlete but he's not the fastest guy and he's not the highest jumper," he said. "He's a pretty intelligent player. Usually what people do is they put a quick, athletic player on him to try to limit his touches. It's tougher to really guard a guy in the post because a guy like Jared Sullinger or JaJuan Johnson, those guys can pass out of the post and make other people double down better and you have to collapse people down."
Although his numbers might not be what they were in the earlier portion of the schedule, Diebler has still found a way to hit on at least one three-pointer in his last 43 games. Hoffarber has had four games this season without a three-pointer, half of which have come in conference play. Penn State's Talor Battle, a point guard who leads the league with 50 three-pointers in Big Ten play, is averaging 9.3 treys per conference game compared to 7.1 in non-conference play but presents a more athletic profile compared to Diebler or Hoffarber.
Battle hit seven treys against the Badgers in a losing effort on Sunday and Ryan said his team had a tough time staying with the 6-0, 170-pound guard.
"We knew where Talor Battle liked to shoot from," he said. "We tried to take him out of his comfort zone and we did a good job until the last five or six minutes."
Before his team's game against the Badgers, Diebler said assistant coach Brandon Miller warned him that he might have to primarily serve as a screener for other players – a role Matta said Diebler has acquiesced to on a number of occasions.
"We're not trying to force anything," Diebler said prior to the Michigan State game. "We feel very comfortable taking the ball inside. It's what's been working for us. We'll take threes when we have them but we have some guys who can really shoot the ball on this team. I think teams are focused on that a little bit more than they have in the past."
One thing is for sure: the Buckeyes would like to see the Big Ten's most prolific three-point shooter practice his craft more often. Diebler said he has occasionally been temped to fire up a few shots outside of the flow of the offense and Matta has been pleased that he has not forced the issue.
"We obviously want to get him more shots," the coach said. "There's times when he doesn't have his feet set and I'm always telling him, but he's got a pretty good understanding of when to or when not to. I have great trust in his decision making."