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Buckeyes shooting their way to likely NCAA tournament bid

The Buckeyes have had some tough breaks this season, but their excellent shooting has made them competitive.

Ohio State is shooting 50.1 percent from the field in conference games, and the next-best team (Michigan State) is shooting 44.9. Roughly the same percentage gap separates the Buckeyes and Spartans as separates the Spartans and the Big Ten’s worst shooting team (Michigan).

In the past 15 years, only one team (Michigan State in 2004) has shot better than 50 percent for the season. The Buckeyes are on pace despite three guards — Evan Turner, William Buford and Jon Diebler — doing most of the shooting.

Chief among the reasons (other than 7-foot B.J. Mullens shooting nearly 70 percent), Big Ten coaches say, are Matta’s coaching style, Buford’s rapid development and the difficulty of matching up with the 6-7 Turner, who can create shots for not only himself but teammates, too. He ranks first in Big Ten scoring and ninth in assists.

“They cut extremely hard,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said, “and along with that cutting, they screen for each other very well, especially (for) Diebler and Turner.”

As well as freeing his shooters to shoot, Matta gives them much freedom to shoot, said Iowa coach Todd Lick-liter, who coached with Matta at Butler.

“If you look back over Thad’s career, I think he’s done a great job of encouraging shooters to shoot the ball and giving them confidence,” Lickliter said.

Can they keep this up? Who knows, but nobody wants to face a hot shooting team in the NCAA tournament.

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