Teammates Back Struggling Buford

Ohio State sophomore guard William Buford is going through a tough time right now, but he does not have to look far to find an example of how to get through it. Junior guard Jon Diebler offers his insight into Buford's situation as one member of a roster that is backing the struggling sophomore.

It was almost exactly two years ago that Jon Diebler was walking in William Buford's shoes.

Last year's Big Ten freshman of the year, Buford is enduring the worst shooting slump of his Ohio State career. Arguably the lowest point came Wednesday night on national television, as the sophomore guard connected on just one of his 12 shot attempts and finished with five points in a victory against Florida State. He was pulled from the game with 13:43 remaining in the game and did not return until 1:36 was left on the clock.

His .342 shooting percentage is last on the team among players who have seen action in all seven games so far this year, but head coach Thad Matta said he is not concerned about the Toledo native.

"Will just wants to play well," the coach said. "Being the type of player that he is, shots going in are something that's important to him. Just watching him shoot the ball (Thursday) night (in practice), I think he'll be OK."

A player who relies on his mid-ranger jumper more than anyone else on the roster, Buford shot 44.8 percent from the field as a freshman. He opened his second campaign by going 13 for 25 (.520) in the first two games but has since struggled.

Buford was 3 for 15 from the field in a Nov. 19 loss to North Carolina and followed that up with a 4-for-11 performance the following day against California. Four nights later in a home contest against Lipscomb, he went 1 for 7 and scored a season-low two points in the process.

Things looked up after Buford went 5 for 9 from the field Nov. 28 against St. Francis, but the victory against the Seminoles represented a personal step backward for Buford.

He was not made available for interviews in advance of Saturday's home contest against Eastern Michigan (Noon, ESPNU), but Buford does not have to look far to find someone who knows what he is going through.

As a freshman at Ohio State, the state's all-time leading prep scorer in Diebler found the transition to college harder than he had initially expected. Through his first six games as a Buckeye, Diebler had connected on only 2 of his 24 three-point attempts (.083) and was 4 of 35 (.114) from the floor overall. It was not until his sophomore season that he would pull himself out of a prolonged shooting funk that saw him shoot a paltry 28.9 percent (48 for 166) from deep during his first season.

Diebler said he has related his problems from that season to the struggling guard.

"I told him I've been there and from experience what you don't want to do is start thinking about it to the point where it drives you crazy," Diebler said. "That's what I did. I was thinking, ‘What am I doing wrong?'

"I told him, ‘You just need to go out and play. That's what you've been doing your whole life. Don't pass up an open shot to try and find someone who's more open. Just shoot the ball.' "

The junior said Buford sought him out after the loss to the Tar Heels and expressed his frustration.

"I'll never forget what he said after the Carolina game," Diebler said. "He said, ‘Man, Jon, I've never shot that bad in my life.' I don't think he knew how to handle it."

Matta said there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Buford's shot and said he continues to knock down jumpers in practice – a claim he made throughout the 2007-08 season as Diebler was in the midst of his own struggles.

Ironically, FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said after the game that he felt it was Diebler who helped compensate for Buford's night. Diebler was 6 of 13 from the floor and hit five first-half three-pointers en route to a 22-point night.

"I just think that sometimes you have one of those games," the coach said. "I'm not sure we took (Buford) out (of the game). He had 12 shots. He just had one of those nights where maybe his shots weren't falling."

In addition, Matta said he does not coach his wings to simply drive the basket and try to get back on track via the free-throw line. Instead, his advice is simple: keep shooting.

Not only do his teammates have confidence that things will turn around offensively for Buford, but they also like his growth at the other end of the court as well.

"The one thing I've been impressed with is he may not be knocking shots down right now but he's really been playing good defense for us," Diebler said. "I think that shows the growth that Will has made from last year to this year because he's really worked hard on his defense."

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