January 19, 2013

Thomas' 28 not enough for Buckeyes

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- On Friday, Deshaun Thomas called himself a "mismatch nightmare" for opponents. Tonight, he backed it up.

The Ohio State forward scored a season-high 28 points in the Buckeyes' battle with Michigan State on Saturday. Unfortunately for OSU, Thomas' effort wasn't enough as the Buckeyes suffered a 59-56 loss to the Spartans.

The preseason All-American's 28-point performance was just the latest in a stellar junior season that has seen him lead OSU in scoring in 14 of its 17 games. Thomas is averaging 20.7 points per game in a season that has seen him finally become the Buckeyes' No. 1 scoring option following the departures of Jared Sullinger and William Buford.

"I was trying to do anything I could do to help my teammates win," Thomas said. "Executing down the stretch, hitting big shots when we was down one, when we was up two. I was trying to be there in the right spot to knock them down. I felt pretty good and comfortable coming off them screens with the mismatches."

But while Thomas' showing was arguably's OSU's best from an offensive standpoint all season, it also accentuated the help- or lack thereof- that his teammates have provided him with. Other than Thomas, no other Buckeye scored more than six points on Saturday. Indiana's No. 3 all-time scorer in high school history scored exactly half of OSU's points, an alarming statistic for a team that has yet to establish a consistent second scoring threat all season.

"We fought well tonight," OSU point guard Aaron Craft said. "At times, we were fighting without really a purpose. We were trying to go out there and play as hard as we could without keeping our system in mind."

Perhaps also disturbing for OSU coach Thad Matta was the fact that twice in the final minute, the Buckeyes failed to get Thomas a 3-point shot attempt while they trailed by as many points. Both Craft and Shannon Scott missed potential game-tying shots, while OSU's leading scorer went without an attempt in the final 30 seconds.

"I was knocking shots all night, why not? Or I can try to create something for my other teammates," Thomas said when asked if he would've liked more shots down the stretch. "All we gotta do is just learn from this."

After the game, Matta admitted that he'd like to see a more consistent second option step up for his team. Although Thomas is supremely talented, it's clear that the Buckeyes' Achilles' heel this season has been it's lack of secondary scorers, with players like Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. proving to be streaky and inconsistent.

"Obviously, you'd like to have everybody in double-figures," Matta said. "(Thomas) was smooth, he was efficient tonight. It was a tremendous effort by him."

Now one game past the halfway point of the regular season, the Buckeyes will hope that either Craft, Smith, or perhaps LaQuinton Ross will step up with the same kind of emergence that Thomas displayed in the second half of last season.


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