By the numbers: where No. 4 Ohio State excels and needs improvement

Sports

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — This week, Ohio State jumped to No. 4 in the country after starting the season ranked 23rd. The Buckeyes have won five in a row and eight of their last nine games.

Below is a breakdown of statistical areas where Ohio State excels, where they’re just average and where the Buckeyes need to improve.

Take these stats with the proper context because the Buckeyes have played the 9th most games (20) in the country, so these stats are a bit skewed both in favor and against OSU.

Where the Buckeyes excel

No. 4 Offensive Efficiency: When Ohio State has the ball, they find a way to score. The Buckeyes score 120.8 points per 100 possessions, which ranks behind only Iowa, Gonzaga and Baylor.

Ohio State’s efficiency can be explained by several factors, starting with Duane Washington and E.J. Liddell who both average nearly 15 points a game. The other factor is that eight players shoot better than 45% from the field, which explains why Ohio State, as a team, shoots 45% from the field.

The Buckeyes average 77.5 points per game, good enough for 57th in the country. That total is all the more impressive considering 14 of OSU’s 20 games have come in the daunting Big Ten.

No. 1 Free Throws Made: This could be construed as one of the misleading stats since OSU has played 20 games. But the Buckeyes are excellent at the foul line, making 76.6% of their shots, 29th best in the country. That was on full display when OSU made 20 of 21 free throws in a four-point win over Penn State. The Buckeyes are also tied for 7th in free throw attempts, meaning they combine their offensive efficiency with an ability to get to the line to score more points.

No. 10 Turnovers Per Game: The Buckeyes are not prone to mistakes, particularly turning the ball over. Ohio State averages 10.2 turnovers per game, which helps provide context for why the Buckeyes are the 4th-most efficient offense in the nation.

Where the Buckeyes are average

No. 55 Assist-to-Turnover Ratio: As mentioned above, Ohio State excels at not turning the ball over. But they aren’t very good when it comes to assists. More on that in a bit.

T-70th defensive rebounds per game: Rebounding in this Big Ten is hard. With players like Kofi Cockburn and Luka Garza, Ohio State averaging 27.3 defensive rebounds per game and being tied for 66th in rebound margin (4) is good, not great. The Buckeyes are the 4th-best defensive rebounding team in the Big Ten and 8th-best offensive rebounding team in the league. They could improve a little in this category, but it’s good enough as is to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.

83rd three-point field goals per game: Given the amount of three-point shooters OSU has and the talent of those shooters, the Buckeyes are capable of making more than eight threes a game. In fact, they did just that against Maryland on Monday making eight three pointers in the first half alone.

Justin Ahrens provides a spark off the bench and showed that making three trifectas late to propel OSU to an 89-85 road win at Iowa. Ohio State’s best three-point shooter, Duane Washington Jr., averages 2.8 a game and is capable of four a game. If he can do that, and a supporting cast of C.J. Walker, Justice Sueing, Ahrens and Seth Towns help, an already dangerous offense becomes more lethal.

Where the Buckeyes need improvement

Tied 198th Assists Per Game: It’s strange that OSU’s incredibly efficient offense only averages 12.8 assists per game. Maybe this isn’t something that needs improvement because they’re firing on all cylinders winning eight of their last nine games. But even raising that average to 15, like making a few more threes, makes OSU’s offense unstoppable.

Tied 194th Personal Fouls Per Game: 17.8 personal fouls per game is just giving away free points and could explain why 10 of the Buckeyes’ 20 games have been decided by eight points or less. It’s important to be aggressive, but foul trouble for someone like E.J. Liddell or Kyle Walker will be OSU’s downfall in the Big Dance.

Tied 128th Scoring Defense: The Buckeyes are improving in this category as the season continues allowing less than 70 points in five of their last nine games. But there’s room for improvement here, specifically committing fewer fouls, forcing more turnovers per game (331st in the country) and bringing down opponents’ field goal percentage (41.3%), which ranks 85th in the country.

Other areas to improve:

  • T-139th blocked shots per game (3.4)
  • T-326th steals per game (4.5)
  • 176th three-point field goal defense (33.1)
  • 103rd three-point field goal percentage (35.2)
  • T-164th offensive rebounds per game (10.1)

The Buckeyes’ rise to the top five is more about just stats. In a season unlike any other, coach Chris Holtmann says it is vital having players who have been part of the program for several years.

“I’ve mentioned the importance of building with guys that have been a part of our program, that understand how we do things,” he said “What helps is a core of returning guys who have an understanding of how we do things and have embraced that … in a year where you’re being challenged in a lot of ways, the quality of your team and their ability to focus and the maturity of your team is essential.”

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