After Ohio State’s 75-70 loss at Illinois to open Big Ten play, head coach Thad Matta said his team’s transition defense played a key role in the defeat.
The Fighting Illini only had two fastbreak points in the win, but their quick-paced attack led to a number of easy buckets.
In order for the Buckeye transition defense to take strides in the right direction, more than one entity has to be upgraded.
“I think to improve on transition defense, it’s a couple different things,” OSU assistant coach Greg Paulus said Thursday. “I think you got to see yourself doing it, doing it well, not doing it the way you want it to be to done. I think continuing to work on drills in practice and then reinforcing some of our rules and principles (help make the transition defense better).”
He added that having this aspect of the defense at its best is critical because opposing teams’ offensive styles are different based on their personnel.
“Certain guys you’re going to have to get out to and find shooters,” Paulus said. “Certain guys or teams have other tendencies in transition. So it’s a big part of the game. For us to try to make teams execute in the half court and really work against what we do, it’s important.”
Ohio State is holding its opposition to a 38.3 field-goal percentage, largely due to its half-court defense. Minnesota is the only team ahead of the Buckeyes in the Big Ten in that category, as the Golden Gophers are holding teams to a 37.9 mark.
Paulus also noted that the team’s transition defense must be a peak performance for the entirety of games.
“It’s something we’re trying to get better at,” Paulus explained. “It’s not where we want it to be. Even if you play a game and you do a good job for 35 of the 40 minutes, during that five minutes they can hit you really quick.
“So for us, it’s something that – from start to finish – it needs to be a point of emphasis, especially as the season gets going. So it’s an area that we need to get better at that.”
Despite the transition defense not being at the level Paulus desires, he did say that it has progressed from the beginning of the year.
“I think we’re getting better at it,” Paulus said. “I think also teams are going to try to when they study you and different ways to score on, not only are they playing to their strengths but they are also trying to score quick and get easy buckets. I think it’s a big part of the game today, is the transition. Just like more and more teams are going to the ball screen. But for us, there’s a certain standard that we want to have and that standard, defensively, starts with our transition.”