January 23, 2010

Buford's growth as scorer continues

MORGANTOWN, W.V. - There are few things as aesthetically pleasing when watching the Ohio State basketball team play than the smooth stroke of a perfectly-aligned William Buford jump shot.

And for most of Ohio State's (14-6, 13-1 Big Ten Conference) game at No. 11 West Virginia, Buford's shot was on display. Though the Buckeyes ended up losing the game, 71-65, after holding a big 12-point lead, Buford's quest toward becoming one of Ohio State's most predominant scorers continued.

When Evan Turner got injured with broken bones in his lower back against Eastern Michigan Dec. 3, Buford's name was the first mentioned when discussing where there lost offensive points would come from.

Over a month later, with Turner back at nearly full speed in the Buckeye lineup, Buford's alignment as one of the team's go-to scorers has remained.

"It feels great when I get going," Buford said after the game. "It really makes me more confident and then I am able to score even more."

Buford got going early against the Mountaineers on Saturday in the WVU Coliseum, and ended up riding his pretty jumper to a team-leading 22 points off of 9-of-13 shooting from the field.

Though there have been times where Buford admittedly takes some questionable shots, he certainly has learned to grow within his role in the offense. Despite the impressive onslaught of scoring, Buford only missed four shots the entire game.

And when he is knocking down shots, Ohio State is running on full cylinders.

"It opens up my game and it opens everyone else's game," Buford said of when his jumper is falling. "More people get open because they are concentrating on me making the shot. We had a lot of good looks tonight, but we just couldn't knock them all down."

In the first half in particular, Buford led the attack that consisted of teammates Jon Diebler and Evan Turner, who scored 18 points.

But in the second half, something changed.

Ohio State's lead quickly dwindled out of the locker room in the second half as the Buckeyes slowly watched West Virginia march on to a 10-0 run to cut their lead within three.

By the time there was less than 10 minutes remaining in the game, those jumpers just weren't falling.

At times, they weren't even attempted.

Ohio State, who shot 55 percent from the field in the first half, only attempted 20 field goals and made eight for a 40 percent shooting clip in the second half.

"We were getting good looks, but we just couldn't knock down the shot," Buford said. "Basically, that's it."

Turner, who missed some clutch free throws down the stretch, did all that he could off the ball by penetrating to the hoop and kicking it out, but there were some open shots the Buckeyes passed on.

"Maybe they didn't feel like the shot was there, because my teammates definitely don't shy away from shooting it," Turner said.

Buford, on the contrary, said at times the team has a tendency to hesitate when the ball isn't falling the way they would like. On several occasions some three pointers were passed on when it was in fact the best look the team would get in that possession.

"We probably hesitated a little because if our shot is not falling we are probably trying to get to the hole or drive and dish," Buford said. "I was looking at the coaches (at the end of the game) to give me the ball because I was still feeling good from the first half."

Regardless of the outcome of the game, the Buckeyes have to be encouraged by the continued growth of Buford, who is showing this type of shot on a more consistent basis.

Buford, admittedly, has been working hard to become another go-to scorer on this team aside from the obvious in Turner.

"In practice I stay after every day in practice and sometimes I come in early and stay after to work on my game," Buford said, "(My shot) was really working for me tonight."

For the Buckeyes, they'll take that from Buford every time.

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.

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