It has become a safe bet that if Ohio State is making three-pointers, it is probably going to win basketball games.
With four games remaining in the regular season entering Thursday night’s game at Nebraska, the No. 23 Buckeyes have shown that their optimum chance for success has been closely tied to their ability to shoot from deep.
When Ohio State has made at least 10 three-pointers this season, it is 10-0, a figure that includes Sunday’s 79-72 home win against then-No. 7 Maryland. When shooting at least 36 percent from three, the Buckeyes are 16-1.
After Ohio State finished 10 for 25 from three against the Terrapins (40%), coach Chris Holtmann summed it up.
"I don’t know if we can beat really good people without making a number of threes because that’s the strength of several guys on our team," he said.
In conference play, the Buckeyes lead the Big Ten in three-point shooting at 36.9%. They have not finished a season as the best-shooting three-point team in Big Ten play since they hit on 45.2% of their threes during the 2010-11 conference season.
Three of the league’s top seven three-point shooters are Buckeyes: Justin Ahrens (No. 2, 46.9%), Andre Wesson (No. 3, 45.8%) and Kaleb Wesson (No. 7, 41.7%).
"It’s one of the important things for our team," junior guard CJ Walker said. "I feel like when we’re making threes it just opens up our offense and creates other opportunities, getting into the paint, getting into the post and just being able to create in different ways. I feel like if we’re hitting threes it means a lot to our offense."
Against the Terrapins, Walker hit two early threes and finished with 12 points. After making eight threes during the first half, the Buckeyes had only two in the second half but still maintained a seven-point lead.
"We like to play inside-out," sophomore guard Duane Washington Jr. said. "Creating opportunities for kick-out threes is something that we work on every day in practice."
It could be an important development given the high rate at which Ohio State attempts threes. The Buckeyes will go to Nebraska attempting 42.6% of their shots from three-point range, the most ever for a Holtmann-coached team and Ohio State’s highest rate in the KenPom.com era, which dates back to the 1996-97 season.
The Cornhuskers have the third-worst three-point defense in Big Ten play, allowing teams to shoot 33.9%.
The problem is that, while the Buckeyes are statistically the best in the Big Ten, they are also prone to cold-shooting nights. When that happens, Holtmann said, a few other things need to compensate.
"We have to be more consistent and better defensively," he said. "We have to find ways to score through the paint."
Those traits were on display during the two wins the Buckeyes have when shooting worse than 36% from three a season-opening win against Cincinnati and a win against No. 6 Kentucky in mid-December.
"More consistent defensive effort … was the case in those two games in particular," Holtmann said. "This (Nebraska) group really tests your ability to defend, with the way they can spread you out."
Young’s status unclear
Ohio State will know the status of injured forward Kyle Young by shoot-around in Lincoln on Thursday, Holtmann said.
Young, who has battled injuries throughout the season, suffered a right ankle injury during the first half against Maryland. Wednesday, Holtmann described it as a "significant ankle sprain."