Ohio State basketball: 'Unique' Thomas gives Cats matchup challenge

2013-03-27T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T12:09:23Z Ohio State basketball: 'Unique' Thomas gives Cats matchup challengePatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 27, 2013 12:00 am  • 

LOS ANGELES - Deshaun Thomas is different things to different people.

"Reminds me a lot of Shabazz Muhammad," UA coach Sean Miller said.

"Brock Motum - last year," UA forward Solomon Hill countered.

Thomas, Ohio State's junior forward, might be better than either of the Pac-12 stars from UCLA and Washington State, respectively.

Entering Thursday's Sweet 16 game at Staples Center, the 6-foot-7, 215-pounder is averaging 19.7 points and 6.1 rebounds, both team-highs.

Thomas, a second-team Sporting News All-American, led the Big Ten in scoring and was second with an 84 percent clip from the free-throw stripe.

"He's so different and unique as a player," Miller said Monday. "It's hard to describe how he plays.

"On one hand, he's an incredible three-point shooter. On the other, he's not small.

"He's big and he's physical and he can also score around the basket.

"Every team has its hands full with him. That's why Ohio State is who they are.

"We're no different."

Thomas is a scoring wing who happens to play power forward - and is especially dominant, Miller said, when the 28-7 Buckeyes use their most effective, small, lineup.

"They have five players on the court that can pass, dribble and shoot - and it makes it very difficult to defend them," Miller said. "We have our work cut out for us."

The Fort Wayne, Ind., native likes to set ball screens and float back toward the three-point line, from which Thomas shoots 44.5 percent.

"Because he plays (power forward), we're going to have to be great with our defense, rotating," Miller said. "You can't switch on him because he's too big for our smaller players to switch on to.

"It's a team effort with him."

The matchup might fall to a UA bench player.

Miller said the Wildcats will "probably start the same way," with Hill likely guarding Thomas, but it doesn't figure to stay that way.

"I don't know that we can play Solomon on Thomas," Miller said. "Maybe we can somewhat."

The coach also dismissed wing Kevin Parrom as an option.

However, Miller said the starting defensive matchup is "misrepresented throughout the game" sometimes.

Hill "will guard him some," Miller said, but so will freshman bench players Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley.

Hill even hinted Jerrett or Ashley might start.

The senior said "it's going to be interesting to see how Brandon and Grant prepare this week," in addition to how the Wildcats deploy center Kaleb Tarczewski, whose 7-foot frame should benefit the UA on offense but complicate defensive assignments against a smaller lineup.

Ashley and Jerrett have "really progressed defensively," Miller said, but the other players on the floor will have to help.

"(Thomas) sets so many of these ball screens that when the ball's thrown back to him a lot of times it's going to be the next guy rotating over to him," Miller said. "It's not just gonna be a single matchup. …

"We have to rotate to him and do a great job as a team.

"Because the thing that's different about him, is, he's too big and physical for guards to deal with."

In two NCAA tournament games this year, Thomas has averaged 23 points and four rebounds.

During Ohio State's 10-game winning steak, he's averaging 18.7 points, making 53 percent of his shots. Thomas has scored 14 or more points in each of the last 16 games.

And he'll stay in the game - he's committed four fouls only once this year.

"You're not going to shut out great players in the tournament," Hill said. "My thing would be to not let him get comfortable and let him get going."

About Deshaun Thomas

The Ohio State's junior forward:

• Leads Big Ten with 19.7 points per game and tied for 12th at 6.1 rebounds per game

• Is the league's No. 2 free throw shooter at 84 percent

• Has 1,587 career points, and needs 27 to move into Ohio State's all-time top 10 list

In praise of Deshaun Thomas

The Ohio State junior forward's honors this year:

• Sporting News Second-Team All-America

• One of 14 finalists for USBWA Oscar Robertson Award

• One of 15 finalists Wooden Award

• Fourth place, KenPom.com Player of the Year

• All-Big Ten, first team coaches' poll

• All-Big Ten, first team media poll

• All-Big Ten Tournament team

• Two-time Big Ten Player of the Week

• USBWA All-District V

Contact reporter Patrick Finley at pfinley@azstarnet.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @PatrickFinley

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activate

Latest Video

More videos

Rich Rod and players discuss their tough win

Rich Rodriguez, Austin Hill, Scooby Wright, Cayleb Jones on tonight's game


Follow the Arizona Daily Star