Even though the numbers from Ohio State’s exhibition win against Walsh last weekend won’t be logged in the record book, the Buckeyes did set a record of sorts by attempting only nine three-point field goals.
Never in Thad Matta’s previous nine seasons as coach had the Buckeyes attempted fewer than 10 in a game against a team from outside the Big Ten. Was it a sign of things to come this season, when a renewed emphasis on calling hand-checking fouls in college basketball could open up the driving lanes and send players to the free-throw line more?
“I don’t know the answer yet. I don’t think anybody knows the answer,” Matta said yesterday while previewing the Buckeyes’ opener today against Morgan State. “Sunday’s game was really no different than any exhibition game that you’ve seen. Is (today) different? We don’t know the answer to that. I think that’s one of the big questions on all coaches’ minds across the country.”
The Buckeyes took 47 of their 60 shots against Walsh no more than 10 feet from the basket. The majority were layups, many in transition after forced turnovers.
They scored 48 of their 93 points in the lane and made 29 of 42 free throws. They have shot as many free throws only twice before under Matta: 42 against Syracuse in an NCAA regional final two years ago, and 43 in his first exhibition game as Ohio State coach in 2004.
Guard-forward Sam Thompson said he thinks more of the same is in store.
“After our scrimmage versus West Virginia (two weeks ago), the day after that in practice, we talked a lot about the way the new rules are set up,” he said. “If you’re aggressive offensively and really put pressure on the defense, chances are you’re going to get a foul or get an open shot just because of how the game is being called now.
“So we know we have to cut hard, we have to cut with purpose, we have to attack the rim when we have the ball, and good things will happen.”
Matta said after the exhibition game that it was good that his team tried only nine threes.
“I liked it just because I thought we took really, really good ones. Going back and looking at it, I didn’t think we passed up any wide-open shots,” he said. “A lot of times, defenses are going to dictate a lot more of your shot selection. But I’d love to have a great balance if we could.”
Last season, 69 percent of the Buckeyes’ field-goal attempts were two-pointers. Two years ago, with the offense focused on center Jared Sullinger, 73 percent were. Three years ago, with
perimeter marksmen Jon Diebler and William Buford flanking Sullinger, 67 percent were.
Last weekend, 85 percent of Ohio State’s attempts were inside the arc.
“We got a lot of chances to get the ball to the basket, so we took advantage of that,” point guard Shannon Scott said. “When threes are there, we’re going to take them, obviously. We’re not going to be shy. But we did what we needed to do to win.”