Debating What To Do With The OSU Lineup

By Jeff Rapp, February 2nd, 2016

In our previous edition of The Ruckus, we revisited the worst Ohio State loss in the Thad Matta era – a 100-65 setback at Maryland in mid-January. It was the first time the Buckeyes allowed a Big Ten foe to go triple figures on them since Purdue mashed OSU 107-75 back in 1998.

It was the kind of defeat that needed deep evaluation and left Ohio State followers wondering if the season was going to be almost completely fruitless.

Well, since then the Buckeyes have shown a little more grit. They gave Purdue a scare in West Lafayette, bombed Penn State and scraped put an overtime win at Illinois after the Illini posted a 15-2 run at the end of regulation.

That set up a home rematch on Sunday with Maryland, the nation’s No. 8 team, and, as it turned out, raised even more questions about the outlook for the 2015-16.

Ohio State showed unforeseen passion for much of the first half, built a small lead, lost the lead, rallied, and was in position to steal a huge win. However, missed free throws and botched opportunities arose in the final minutes and the Buckeyes were left with a 66-61 loss, dropping them to 14-9 overall and 6-4 in the Big Ten.

Cue 610 WTVN program “Bucksline” as SRU editor Jeff Rapp rejoined host Matt McCoy and analyst Tony White on the AM airwaves on Monday night for an in-depth discussion regarding the state of Ohio State basketball.

During the broadcast, White postulated that Matta should send the team’s leading scorer, Marc Loving, to the bench after the 6-7 junior against struggled with his shooting against the Terrapins (19-3, 8-2). McCoy pointed out Loving is now in a horrid 13-for-51 shooting stretch over the last five games with a scoring average of just 8.6 points per contest.

“I would send him to the bench, I really would,” White said of Loving. “I think that does a couple things. First of all, I think it’s shock therapy to the kid. He’s going to be shocked if he were sent to the bench and sometimes you need that electric current going through your body to get you out of whatever funk you are in.

“But I think also it sends a message to your team and that is, it’s OK if you’re not playing well but it’s not okay if you’re not playing the right way, and Marc Loving is not playing the right way all the time. I think putting him on the bench has a chance to make this team take a step forward because everyone is going to realize that effort is not a choice. You have to play really hard all the time.”

Rapp, meanwhile, joined White in delving into the puzzling point guard situation. Freshman A.J. Harris has grabbed classmate JaQuan Lyle’s starting spot and has upped his game of late yet Lyle still has earned the majority of the playing time since the move and even was called upon in the final seconds of regulation at Illinois despite not having a field goal.

Rapp also pointed out how costly OSU’s 14-of-24 showing at the free-throw line was, especially since three of the misses came on the front end of one-and-ones.

“That’s what I’m going to remember about this game,” he said, “because Ohio State shot 35 percent from the field, had a negative assists-to-turnovers ratio, got outrebounded – slightly – and had one player in double figures and yet could have stolen that game with just a few more free throws. … I really felt like yesterday every one of those 10 misses stung. And if they make five of them they might still be playing right now.”

The panel also touched on topics such as Jae’Sean Tate’s solid play, shot selection, post players dealing with foul trouble, the need for a go-to player and – gulp – the merits of playing the NIT vs. barely making the field in the NCAA Tournament.

For a commercial-free replay of the program, click the line below:

2-1 Basketball Bucksline