After their plan for a last-second, tying shot went awry at Michigan State, Ohio State coach Thad Matta and guard Aaron Craft said that one blown play was not what lost the game.
Sure, some of that was to try to help sophomore Shannon Scott feel better. But some of it was true, too.
“Possessions at the beginning of the game are just as important as the possessions at the end,” Craft said yesterday.
In its first 10 possessions on Saturday night, Ohio State turned the ball over five times, helping Michigan State get away to a 13-2 lead. The Buckeyes came back quickly with a 15-0 run, but still, “We’ve got to find a way to start games in a better fashion and just take care of the ball,” Craft said.
Turnovers have been troublesome for the Buckeyes the past four games, not so much because of how many there have been but because of how many scoring chances they are costing a team having trouble scoring.
Ohio State averaged 10.3 turnovers in its first 13 games and 13.8 the past four. But it’s not the average that matters, it’s the “rate” — the percentage of possessions a team turns over the ball. The disparity there is far greater.
In their first 13 games, the Buckeyes had turnovers on 15 percent of their possessions. The past four games, two of which they have lost, they have turned the ball over 26.6 percent of the time — or more than once every four possessions.
“It does affect the game when there are not as many possessions,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
Ohio State has had only 60 offensive possessions, its fewest of the season, in each of its past two games, and has scored 56 points in each. It had nine turnovers in the first half at Michigan State.
“We made some errant passes,” Matta said yesterday. “We’ve got to be tighter with the basketball in terms of delivering it. We had a guy make the same pass he made three games ago. We showed him (then) and said, ‘You can’t throw this pass,’ and he did it again and it got stolen.”
The same thing happened in the loss at Illinois. The Buckeyes had turnovers on more than a third of their possessions in the first 10 minutes as the Illini built a 14-point lead.
“I think we get in a rush sometimes and aren’t very patient on offense, and that leads to untimely turnovers,” Craft said.
“We’re very capable of taking care of the ball, and we have guys that we trust having the ball. It just gets back to taking care of it. You don’t have very many excuses for (not doing) that. Give defenses credit, but at the same time it’s on us to not go into situations where we turn it over.”
The team’s best ball-handlers have been most responsible for the spike. Scott and Craft each had nine turnovers the past four games after totaling 30 between them in the first 13. Lenzelle Smith Jr. had 13 turnovers the past four games after having only 12 for the season.
One possible cause is that against the Big Ten’s better defenses, the guards don’t have the bail-out of being able to play through the post, as they did the past two years with Jared Sullinger. This season, the onus is on them to make more plays.
“I can sympathize,” Izzo said. “When we played through Draymond (Green last season), it was easier. Our turnover rate was up a lot (earlier this season) … and I think that was some of it.”