Dayton Daily News

Muhammad could emerge as consistent second option Buckeyes need

- By Stephen Means The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer

COLUMBUS — For much of the season, Ohio State’s basketball team has relied on one man to provide its offensive production.

There are two problems with that approach:

1. That player is a lowpost scorer, which forces the offense to spend time trying to simply find ways just to get the ball in his hands.

2. That low-post player is averaging 3.5 fouls per game and has fouled out of four games already.

When Kaleb Wesson leaves the floor, Ohio State’s offense Buckeyes desperatel­y need.

“With Kaleb out some- body has to fill that spot,” said Andre Wesson, who registered 15 points and 10 rebounds in Thursday’s 74-70 win over Penn State. usually leaves with him. Over “Kaleb’s such a big part of the past four games, the our offense, and when that Buckeyes have found ways piece comes out somebody to generate offense outside has to hit shots.” of Wesson, but none of those Luther Muhammad led has been consistent enough Ohio State with a stat line of to rely on. Wesson may be 20 points, five rebounds and their best player, but that four assists. He made all eight doesn’t matter if they can’t of his free-throw attempts get him the ball or he’s sit- and played 38 minutes with- ting on the bench. out a single turnover.

But there is one player who That is what Muhammad is has shown flashes of being capable of, but the problem the perimeter option the is he doesn’t always do it.

The last time he reached the 20-point mark, he followed it up with three points on five shots. He’s only averaging 7.6 shots per game, but makes 45 percent of them and 46 percent of his 3-pointers. He doesn’t lack confidence, but sometimes he has to be reminded that what he brings to the table is a necessity and not a bonus.

“Sometimes I pass up a shot that I should take,” Muhammad said. “They just tell me to shoot the ball some- times. Just playing within the team and not trying to go out of your way to get a bucket. Just staying within the offense, if you have a shot take it. Just making the right reads and playing the right way.”

Muhammad is Ohio State’s most talented guard, but teams this year seem more focused on his defense. He excels on that end as well and usually draws the assignment of the opposing team’s best perimeter player. Penn State’s Josh Reaves ended the game with 20 points, but that didn’t stop Muhammad from trash talking at the times it felt necessary.

“I’m a freshman; this is my first time playing at this level and I’m just very excited,” Muhammad said. “I want that test, I want that challenge, I want someone to push me to bring the best out of me every game. It was a great experience.”

OSU coach Chris Holtmann said that unlike some of the other young players, Muhammad doesn’t struggle with his confidence on the court. He isn’t surprised by his production even as a freshman.

Muhammad has started all but one game, and they recruited him with a full understand­ing that he’d be an important piece from day one. They knew he’d play right away because of both talent and need at his position.

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