Cody Cousino / Lantern photographer
On any given night, Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta might use 10 different Buckeyes to log minutes in a game. Just about all of them are capable of leading the team in scoring.
It’s a big difference from last season, when Matta routinely used a six-man rotation. The offense was centered around former National Player of the Year Evan Turner, who often led the team in all major statistical categories.
Through five games this season, four Buckeyes have picked up the scoring load and helped carry the team to victory.
Guard Jon Diebler said after the Morehead State game that the scoring can come from anywhere on the floor.
“For us, we have a lot of weapons offensively,” Diebler said. “Any given night, someone else can lead us in scoring. That’s why we feel very good about our offense.”
Much of the Buckeyes’ offensive firepower can be attributed to the team’s extended bench. Freshman Deshaun Thomas, who has settled into a sixth-man role early into the season, has already led the team in scoring twice.
David Lighty, Jared Sullinger and Diebler have also led the team in scoring.
The Buckeyes are beginning to receive praise for their efforts.
“We played Kentucky around this time a year ago, and right now Ohio State is a better team than Kentucky was at that time,” Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall said following the 64-45 loss to the Buckeyes. “And I feel like Ohio State is certainly a team that — knock on wood, they stay healthy — they’ll have an opportunity to play for the national championship.”
OSU is sixth in the nation in field goal percentage, making 52 percent of its shots. The Buckeyes are also eighth in assists per game, with 19.
The Buckeyes have shown that they can play through adversity. Sullinger averaged 22.5 points per game and 12 rebounds per game in his first two starts. He’s since averaged 10 points per game and six rebounds per game during the last three.
“It’s the thing that we always talk about in college basketball. I mean, it’s such a long season, and this isn’t high school anymore,” Matta said. “And not specifically for Jared, but I think for all of our guys, that’s one of the biggest adjustments. That every night you take the floor, and you know for us, you’re Ohio State, you’re going to get a team’s best shot.”
Despite Sullinger’s inconsistency and a back injury to starter William Buford, the Buckeyes have started the season 5-0. But there’s certainly room for improvement.
Diebler is shooting 48 percent from beyond the arc, but the rest of the Buckeyes are shooting only 31 percent from deep. Also, Buford is averaging 11.5 points per game but he’s yet to take over a game and captain the scoring load.
Turnovers have also been an issue — the Buckeyes have averaged 12 per game.
Diebler said the team was disappointed with the way it turned the ball over against Morehead State.
“We were a little lackadaisical with our passes,” Diebler said. “We work on passing every day in practice, and that’s really unacceptable for us to turn it over and to keep making the same turnovers over and over again.”
Asked what the Buckeyes need to do when they face a zone defense, Lighty and Diebler answered at the same time.