With Indiana set to take on Ohio State in primetime at Assembly Hall, we reached out to Connor Lemons of Land-Grant Holy Land to talk Buckeye Hoops.
Here’s what he had to say:
What are the biggest differences between last year’s Ohio State squad and this one?
Ohio State is substantially better on defense this season. They’re right around the top-50 in KenPom’s defensive efficiency rankings for the first time in 4 years, partially because certain guys like Roddy Gayle and Bruce Thornton have improved, but also because newcomers like Scotty Middleton and Evan Mahaffey bring so much versatility on that end. Defense has been such an Achilles Heel for this program for the past 3-4 years, but they’ve been, at worst, average this year on defense. Which is good for them, the way things have gone the last few years.
Adding Jamison Battle also has made a pretty sizable difference. He’s leading the Big Ten in made three-pointers this season, so basically adding him as a free agent in the off-season was a huge pick-up.
What are this team’s strengths and weaknesses? Also, what happened in the Penn State/Alabama games?
Ohio State’s strength this season is probably the fluidity and unselfishness of the offense, which sounds a little corny but doesn’t make it any less true. They’re totally fine letting whoever has the hot hand keep it going on any given night. Thornton, Gayle, and Battle have each led the team in scoring at one point or another. Guys have gotten pretty good at giving up a good shot to find their teammate for a better one.
They’ve gotten better at it, but I still think defensive rebounding is this team’s biggest weakness. They’ve given up way too many second-chance points, and even if that second opportunity hasn’t led to points for the opposition, it’s still keeping the ball out of Bruce, Roddy, and Jamison’s hands and preventing Ohio State from scoring.
It’s tough to point out what schematically went wrong for Ohio State against Penn State, other than getting absolutely whalloped on the glass in the second half. Penn State grabbed more than half of their misses in the second half and Ohio State played not to lose rather than to win.
Alabama is a good team and Ohio State’s NET ranking is going to be forever inflated thanks to that win, but they’re pretty bad on defense and Ohio State’s guards were able to carve them up pretty good.
Bruce Thornton is playing like one of the best point guards in the country and Roddy Gayle looks fantastic, how’s the backcourt looking? What makes it so good?
I think Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle might be the best backcourt in the Big Ten this year. Bruce turned the ball over 11 times through the first 13 games of the season, stumbled a little bit against Rutgers with 3 of them but still had 7 assists — he’s been really good taking care of the ball. And Roddy, there’s going to be ups and downs with him, but the ceiling is sky-high. They complement each other nicely, and they’re also really close friends.
How is Zed Key looking this year?
Zed Key’s stepped back into a bench role this year behind Felix Okpara, but when he’s in they will use him quite a bit. He’s averaging 9 points per game but only playing about 19 minutes per game. Okpara just brings more to the team on both ends — he’s an elite shot blocker and alters opponent’s shots around the basket, and is also a lob threat when Ohio State gets out in transition. Zed’s not as quick to get back down the floor, and is more of a back to the basket, “throw it to me and let me work” kind of guy.
Indiana 80, Ohio State 71