COLUMBUS: Deshaun Thomas said before last week’s Big Ten Tournament that he wanted to take good shots and be as efficient on offense as he could be to help Ohio State win it.
He scored 52 points in three games and was voted to the all-tournament team as the Buckeyes won the title for the third time in four years. But in the most recent two victories, over Michigan State and Wisconsin, he took 38 shots to score 33 points, and nearly half the attempts were three-pointers.
“They were questionable,” Thomas acknowledged this week. “Some of them.”
Beside him, guard Aaron Craft stifled a laugh and dropped his head to conceal his face from television cameras.
They could afford to smile about it at that point. But with the NCAA Tournament starting this week, and one loss meaning the end of the season, Thomas’ shot selection has been addressed with him by coaches, and he understands he needs to adjust.
Ohio State, the No. 2 seed in the West Region, opens tournament play Friday night against Iona in the University of Dayton Arena.
Although the Buckeyes are on a season-high eight-game winning streak, their leading scorer’s shooting percentage has dipped lately as he has struggled to make shots from behind the arc. Thomas has missed 45 of 55 three-point attempts in the past 10 games.
Saturday against Michigan State, he tied his career high with 11 three-point attempts but made only two. Sunday against Wisconsin, he missed all six. Afterward, coach Thad Matta said that, “as a shooter,” sometimes Thomas “tries to shoot his way out of problems.”
“Coach is right. I just keep shooting. I want one to go down so bad,” said Thomas, who led all Big Ten players in points per game this season.
“I learned that you’ve got to do something else. If I’m in a one-on-one situation, I’m going to try to get the best shot that I can, or if a man helps on me, kick it out and get a better shot.”
Thomas spent time Monday watching video with assistant coach Chris Jent, the Buckeyes’ de facto offensive coordinator. Rather than taking his game closer to the basket, Jent said, Thomas just needs to do a better job of reading and reacting to the defense instead of predetermining his play. He also needs to find open areas on the floor rather than crowd himself and his teammates by making the wrong move, Jent said.
“The comment I made to him was, ‘You’re a junior now. You have an understanding of what we’re trying to do [and] what defenses are trying to do. You have to use that knowledge,’ ” Jent said.
“Just like how much he’s improved in the classroom [as a student]. He’s done a great job of learning how to study, learning how to take tests. It’s a part of your growth. You have to apply that knowledge when you step on the court. You can’t play like you’re in high school. That’s not good enough. You’ve got to show your growth in a lot of areas, and one is understanding the game.”
Thomas led the NCAA Tournament in scoring last year, averaging 19.2 points in the Buckeyes’ run to the Final Four while defenses concentrated on stopping Jared Sullinger.
“It was pretty easy to score,” Thomas said. “This year, being the man, there is a little pressure. I try to be as patient as I can. I’m just trying to win. I’ll do anything to help my team win.”