COLUMBUS, Ohio -- As is usually the case when a team loses a game to a lower ranked opponent at home, positives in Ohio State's 74-66 loss to Kansas last Saturday were hard to come by. But if one existed, it'd be the stellar play of point guard Shannon Scott.
Scoring 15 points, grabbing six rebounds, and dishing out four assists, the sophomore point guard was arguably the Buckeyes' best player on Saturday, although his efforts weren't enough to power his team past the Jayhawks. Scott's performance was just the latest in a 2012-13 season that has seen him transform from a surprise sophomore into one of the identities of this year's Ohio State squad.
Scott's transformation has been a welcome one for the Buckeyes, after a relatively disappointing freshman campaign resulted in averages of just 1.2 points per game on 28.2 percent shooting and 1.7 assists per game for the McDonald's High School All-American. Now averaging 7.2 points per night on 44.4 percent shooting, the Georgia native has looked much more comfortable as a shooter, while playing 21 minutes per game.
"I'm confident with my shot right now. I feel like I should be making more shots," Scott said. "I know I'm taking the right shot when I take it, so I'm going to continue to take those shots."
Scott's scoring has also opened up lanes for him as a playmaker, where he is tied with fellow point guard Aaron Craft in the team lead for assists with 4.6 per game. Perhaps even more impressively, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound point guard's aggressiveness has come in a controlled frenzy, as seen evident by his 5.7 assist-to-turnover ratio, the fifth best in the country.
"This year, I'm just focusing on making the sure pass instead of making a risky pass. Last year, I was kind of just making passes I thought would be open, but now, the pass is actually there, so I make them," Scott said. "My ability to score a little bit more is helping me, 'cause defenses are actually coming closer to me now, so I'm able to make that easy pass and dish it off to my teammates and they're knocking down shots."
On only two occasions this season has Scott, the son of former North Carolina and Boston Celtics star Charlie Scott, recorded more than one turnover in a game, with his season high being three in a 12-point performance in the Buckeyes' Dec. 12 win over Savannah State. The No. 53 overall recruit in the 2011 class said that the key to keeping his turnovers to a minimum has been keeping them off his mind, and thus off of his stat sheet.
"Last year, I was probably thinking about not turning the ball over too much. I was trying to make sure everything was a perfect pass, but now I'm just being free and letting it go," Scott said. "Now that I got more confidence in my passing, I believe it's going to help me out with my whole game."
With Jared Sullinger in the NBA and no consistent offensive threat in OSU's post, Scott's speed and playmaking abilities have not only been a bonus, but necessary for the Buckeyes' change in identity. OSU coach Thad Matta said that he's been pleased by the job that the Milton high school product has done while taking on a more integral role on his team.
"I'm really liking the pace that he's playing at right now. He's doing a great job of taking care of the basketball," Matta said. "I want Shannon running the team. I want him in attack mode. I think that there's going to be some errant plays when you're playing like that, but for the most part, I think he's doing a great job for us."
Scott's importance to this year's OSU team was made apparent on Saturday, where he spearheaded a first half run against Kansas to give the Buckeyes their largest lead of the game, helping his team outscore the Jayhawks 25-18 in his first 10 minutes of action. Also OSU's leader in steals with 2.45 per game, Scott helped the Buckeyes score three more points than Kansas while he was on the court, and was only one of two OSU players- along with center Amir Williams- to register a positive plus/minus against the Jayhawks.
After the game, Matta admitted that he'd like to see his team do a better job of putting itself in a position to exploit Scott's strengths, while allowing the sophomore to play a bigger role in the Buckeyes' success.
"We have to continue to build on that," Matta said. "We've got to continue to get better defensively, because transition is great to us if we can get out and run."