Matta Sees Scoring Help On The Way

The Ohio State basketball team went 10-10 to end it season a year ago, and one of the big reasons for the team's struggles was its inability to put the ball in the basket. The Buckeyes have attacked that issue this summer and see improvement already as the team prepares to head to the Bahamas.

As much as the Ohio State men’s basketball team might want to, it can’t hide from the numbers.

Fifth in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage at 45.0 percent.

Ninth in the Big Ten in scoring average at 69.5 points per game.

Ninth in the Big Ten in three-point percentage at 32.4 percent.

Eleventh in the Big Ten in free-throw shooting at 68.9 percent.

And perhaps most worrying, 10th in the Big Ten in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive efficiency rankings.

Half of the game of basketball is scoring, and simply put, the Buckeyes were not a great team last year when it came to doing so.

So how has head coach Thad Matta attacked the problem, especially as the team’s top three scorers have left for the professional ranks?

“I went to church a lot,” he cracked Monday afternoon.

In fact, it seemed like prayers were about the only way for the Buckeyes – who topped 70 points just three times in the last 18 games last year – to put the ball in the basket in Matta’s 10th season.

Now, with his team needing to figure out where consistent offense might come from, Matta has gone back to the drawing board and refocused his team’s offseason efforts.

“We’ve gotten more selective in the shots we want guys shooting in the offseason,” Matta said as his team got set to head to the Bahamas for an offseason set of exhibitions. “Going back and looking at every guy’s shot and giving him a video of everything and trying to tweak the minor details the best that we can, we’ve done all that.”

That’s where the trip to the Bahamas – a foreign trip that college teams can set up once every four years – has come in handy. Along with it have come 10 summer practices the Buckeyes have been able to use to try to get the offense in sync and get a talented class of newcomers comfortable with one another on the floor.

There’s plenty of talent in the group, too, especially of the young variety. While veterans Trey McDonald, Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott and Amir Williams return for one last go round – and have been getting praise for their offseason development – the Buckeyes welcome in graduate student Anthony Lee as a transfer from Temple, redshirt freshman Kam Williams comes back from missing his first year with mono and the nation’s No. 10 recruiting class enters with fanfare and scoring ability.

Add in a year of seasoning for Marc Loving – Ohio’s Mr. Basketball as a senior who had an up-and-down freshman campaign – and the Buckeyes have options.

“Everyone can spread the floor, everyone can create their own shot and create for others,” Loving said. “It’s going to be hard for teams to guard us and to stick on one person. In some instances you have to pick your poison of who you want to stop. We can go inside, we can go outside, and we’re very long and athletic. I feel like it’ll work out for us.”

There are a lot of reasons for optimism among that group as well. Matta and Loving praised McDonald for the development of his offensive game, including his outside shot, Lee adds 13.6 points per game he scored last season for the Owls.

Williams was also known as a fill-the-bucket scorer in his time before arriving at Ohio State, and true freshmen D’Angelo Russell – whose passing ability has caught his teammates off guard so far this summer, according to Matta – and Keita Bates-Diop are top-25 recruits who can make things happen on the offensive end.

Matta also has the Buckeyes playing a zone defense this year in part to get the top five offensive threats on the floor in a way that will not leave the team exposed on the other end.

Whether the improvements will pay dividends in the winter and spring remains to be seen, but the OSU head coach is certainly doing his best to attack what was a season-long problem last season.

“I don’t think the preparation and the seriousness of each shot was where it needed to be,” Matta said. “It’s a focus, a concentration. I think sometimes guys think people are looking at them (when they shoot) and I’m trying to explain to them they’re watching to see where the ball goes. They don’t care what you look like as a shooter. All 17,000 eyes are going to see if you make the shot or not, not what you do with your legs or your hands or whatever afterward.

“Those are the things we’ve tried to get corrected.”

Bahamas Bound
While in the Bahamas, the Buckeyes will play two games, one a 9 p.m. start Aug. 7 vs. the Bahamas All Stars and the other Aug. 8 at 7 p.m. vs. the Providence Storm. Both games will be streamed live on the Internet.

Aug. 7 Webcast
Aug. 8 Webcast

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