Before its 100-65 defeat at the hands of the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday, Ohio State was limiting its opponents to 38.2 percent shooting from the field, the best number for any of the 12 teams Thad Matta has coached in Columbus. (Second place on that list is the NIT champion 2007-08 team at 38.9 percent.) Pretty good, right?
However, entering Saturday, the Buckeyes were yielding 93.8 points per 100 possessions, according to KenPom.com's defensive efficiency rankings. That mark -- quite respectable for a 2015-16 Division I college basketball team -- would rank as the third-worst performance for an Ohio State outfit under Mattta. (Strangely enough, the 2013-14 team -- a group that finished 25-10 but went just 10-8 in Big Ten play and bowed out in the second round of the NCAAs to upstart Dayton -- stands as Matta's best team in terms of defensive efficiency, allowing 89.6 points per 100 possessions. Aaron Craft and Amir Williams, y'all.)
So, Ohio State's defense is (normally) good, and it is also much improved from last season in terms of efficiency (95.0 ppp) and field-goal percentage defense (40.3 percent). One thing is clear, though: as a whole, the Buckeyes' defensive performance in their four true road games this season has been downright dismal.
*At Connecticut on Dec. 12, Ohio State lost 75-55. UConn made 60 percent of its shots, including a 43 percent mark on 14 3-point attempts. The Buckeyes were outrebounded 34-26.
*At Northwestern on Jan. 6, the Buckeyes won 65-56. The Wildcats -- playing without forward Alex Olah, who is averaging 12.2 points per game -- converted on just 31 percent of their field goal attempts. Northwestern only made six of its 25 3-pointers (24 percent), and the two teams each recorded 44 rebounds.
*At Indiana on Jan. 10, Ohio State was blown out 85-60. Indiana made 46 percent of its shot attempts, including 11 3-pointers on 30 tries. The Hoosiers won the rebounding battle 50-31.
*At Maryland on Saturday, the Buckeyes were really blown out, falling 100-65. The 100 points allowed represented the highest output by an Ohio State opponent in a non-overtime game in the Matta era. The Terrapins shot 63 percent from the field, sank 11 of their 21 3-point attempts, and notched five more rebounds (35-30) than the Buckeyes.
"We couldn't stop the things that we needed to stop," Matta said post-game Saturday. "Once they got rolling, we had no answers."
Through Saturday's games, here are the ranks of those four teams in KenPom's offensive efficiency ratings: 18th (Maryland), 25th (Indiana), 52nd (Northwestern), and 82nd (UConn). So, Ohio State has lost on the road to two really good offensive teams (Maryland, Indiana) and one 'meh' offensive team (UConn), but that's not the concern.
The concern is the numbers through four true road games: a minus-71 point differential; a minus-32 rebound differential; opponents shooting an average of 49 percent from the field (as compared to 40 percent in all games); and opponents making nearly 38 percent of their 3-point attempts (including 34 total triples).
Again, looking at its entire body of work, Ohio State has played good, sometimes great defense this year. Through Saturday's games, the Buckeyes are 34th in defensive efficiency and 35th in field-goal percentage defense. Quite obviously, Ohio State's road games represent its outlier showings on defense.
With a 12-7 record (4-2 Big Ten) that arguably contains only one resume-boosting win (Kentucky), Ohio State's dwindling NCAA tournament hopes can only be reinvigorated with road victories. The Buckeyes have another opportunity to do just that in their next tilt Thursday evening at Purdue. If they can't find a way to limit these disparities soon, Ohio State's postseason options will dwindle considerably.