In the two games prior to the streak – both losses – OSU had averaged 58.5 points per outing. Following the Buckeyes' 77-53 victory against Indiana on Jan. 13, the players and head coach Thad Matta praised the team's ball movement above everything else.
While it is easy to discount big wins against the likes of Houston Baptist and Indiana as inconsequential, the way OSU managed to share the basketball and dictate the tempo of the game at one half of the court is a lesson it can use as it continues through Big Ten play.
"When we move the ball we get any shot we want and we get a lot of open looks," junior guard Jeremie Simmons said. "When we're not moving the ball we force up a lot of shots and coach doesn't like that."
The fact that the Buckeyes were getting open looks is not in question. Against the Hoosiers, OSU opened the game by going 9 for 11 from three-point range. The key component to getting those open looks was ball movement.
After the game, Indiana head coach Tom Crean praised a young OSU squad by saying they distributed the basketball like a mature team.
The same could not be said five games prior when the Buckeyes took one on the chin from visiting West Virginia. A stagnant offensive attack produced three assists on 18 made field goals in a 76-48 OSU defeat.
Following that game, sophomore guard Jon Diebler said the annual film break-down sessions showed the Buckeyes just how poorly they played.
"After we watched ourselves on film we all realized how bad it looked when we don't move the ball," he said. "We've got a lot of great players on our team and guys like to make plays. After the games where we've been struggling scoring (Coach Matta) will show us film and then we'll see on film if we make that extra pass and swing it that much quicker we're going to get such a great shot."
Diebler said it grew from that point and manifested itself in practice.
"I think that goes back to practice," he said. "Every day in practice we're working on making the extra pass. It started with the Houston Baptist game when we moved the ball well."
Against Houston Baptist, OSU hit on six of 12 first-half treys in jumping out to a decisive lead. The second half saw the shooting percentage plummet back to earth as the Buckeyes were just 2 for 13 to finish the game at 32.0 percent.
Four nights later against the Hoosiers, OSU threatened the school record for 18 made three-pointers in a game and finished 13 for 24 (54.2 percent) overall. Against Indiana, though, there was an added emphasis on another part of the OSU offensive attack.
Film had showed that the Hoosiers would trap upon a post entry, making it imperative that players such as Dallas Lauderdale and B.J. Mullens were able to kick it back outside. From there, some quick passes along the perimeter would find an open Buckeye.
"That's very important especially for other teams that are scouting us," Mullens said. "Indiana was a post-trapping team. I give the credit to my guards who were hitting open threes when we were kicking the ball back out. That's when the traps stopped."
When the traps stopped, Mullens was able to take advantage. The freshman center finished with 14 points, 12 of which came in the second half.
It is that kind of balanced offensive attack that the Buckeyes will need if they want to be successful tonight (8 p.m., Big Ten Network) against a ranked Michigan team that suffered a road loss to Illinois on Wednesday.
The Wolverines switch between a man-to-man and 1-3-1 zone defenses, often going into the zone after made baskets. One of the basic keys to beating any zone defense is quick ball movement, meaning the lessons OSU learned in its last two games will be applicable here.
"I think what guys are seeing is our offensive production is going up and it's going up by playing more unselfish," Matta said. "I just don't think early on guys were seeing the extra passes off the drive, the inside-out, just a quick ball reversal. It obviously has helped our percentages."
Now the hope for the Buckeyes is that it continues.