Buckeyes still trying to find a No. 2 scorer


Buckeyes still trying to find a No. 2 scorer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) A lot of teams would love to have the leading scorer in their conference.

No. 14 Ohio State has Deshaun Thomas, averaging 23.2 points a game in conference play to lead the Big Ten by a wide margin.

The problem for the Buckeyes, who have had difficulty gaining much traction once conference play began, is that they are still on the lookout for somebody to pick up the points left after Thomas gets his allotment.

``Other teams have that second- or third-leading scorer,'' Thomas said Monday as the Buckeyes (13-4, 3-2 Big Ten) went through their final paces before hosting Iowa (13-5, 2-3) on Tuesday night. ``With the offense we've got, anybody can score. Everybody thinks it's a play running for me, but it's not. In our offense, it's for everybody to get a shot off.''

The thing is, they often do not. Or, at least they don't make it if they do get a shot.

No Ohio State player one other than Thomas is averaging more than 8 points a game in conference play. So opposing defenses can concentrate on him and take their chances that even a wide-open teammate may not hurt them.

``With the offenses that we run, there's definitely multiple options and multiple places for different guys to score,'' said point guard Aaron Craft, who is one of three starters not shooting even 40 percent from the field in conference action. ``At times we don't look at those options. We sort of focus on one part of the play - and that's part of the problem.''

A prime example came Saturday when Thomas, despite heavy pressure from No. 13 Michigan State, scored 28 points - but the rest of the team matched him with 28 points in a 59-56 loss.

Coach Thad Matta, whose new Ohio State contract was announced earlier on Monday, said it was mandatory that the Buckeyes get their points by picking their spots and taking advantage of all the attention that Thomas gets.

``It's probably going to lend itself to really playing off each other,'' he said. ``That's one of the things that we have to continue to do is to play off of each other, making simpler plays, and kind of letting things unfold.''

Craft and his fellow point guard, Shannon Scott, have not established themselves as perimeter shooters that opposing teams need to respect. Likewise, the Buckeyes aren't getting much on a consistent basis from guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. or wings Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross.

Another glaring shortcoming has been the lack of production from the post position, where Amir Williams, Evan Ravenel and Trey McDonald are combining for only 11.2 points and 7.6 rebounds a game in the Big Ten.

Thomas, for his part, isn't just chucking up shots. He had done a much better job of finding open players when he's being double-teamed. He believes the problem can be corrected.

``I have faith in my guys,'' he said. ``There are guys on this team who are capable of scoring in double digits every night. We just have to be patient within our offense and run with great pace. Anybody can be that second scorer.''

Craft said that perhaps the scoring load can be distributed across several other players instead of just having a single, solid No. 2 scorer.

``It doesn't necessarily have to be one of us. I think we have a lot of guys who are capable and who have shown that they're capable throughout this year,'' he said. ``It's just finding more consistency and not having someone score a lot and then not score much the next night. And hopefully DT can continue to do what he's doing and we'll be in business.''


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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Game 74 Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread


Game 74 Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Detroit Red Wings

Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Mich.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Red Wings will be broadcast on NBCSN.

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals (42-24-7) take on the Red Wings (27-35-11) Thursday, March 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Detroit.


The Capitals-Red Wings game will be broadcast on NBCSN. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Check back with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. for postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Red Wings (on NBCSN)
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime


Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Red Wings game:

Alex Ovechkin -  Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Travis Boyd - Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches: Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body injury), Alex Chiasson, Jakub Jerabek


You can watch the Capitals-Red Wings game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.