COLUMBUS, Ohio — There’s nothing Deshaun Thomas can’t do on a basketball court, and Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery will do everything in his power Tuesday to slow down the Ohio State forward.
Thomas scored 28 points in the No. 14 Buckeyes’ 59-56 loss at Michigan State on Saturday. Thomas played all 40 minutes, scored 28 points and nailed six 3-pointers. He’s also a physical mismatch at 6-foot-7 and 215 pounds and can play anywhere on the court.
“You have to stay engaged, you have to put somebody on him physically if you match up because he’ll work that to his advantage,” McCaffery said. “With his size he can go out or in depending on what you put on him. So it’s got to be a unique talent just like he is in terms of being physical enough but also quick enough and strong enough.”
Thomas leads the Big Ten in scoring at 20.8 points per game, 2.6 points more than No. 2 Brandon Paul of Illinois. Thomas is first in 3-pointers per game (2.8) and eighth in rebounding (6.6).
“Obviously you have to stay engaged because he’s got an unbelievable release, whether it’s from 3, and he’s quicker around the basket,” McCaffery said. “He’s got the incredible scorer’s mentality, and he’s got the ultimate green light. Those guys are hard to guard. He’s the kind of guy that before you know it you’ve got 20 shots up and he could have 25, 30 points.”
“Deshaun is probably the best scorer in the Big Ten this year,” Iowa junior Devyn Marble said. “They came off a tough loss, so they’re going to come in and they’re going to be at home and they’re going to play with a chip on their shoulder. We’ve got to be able to meet their intensity and their aggressiveness the first few minutes of that game, and that’s going to really prove who’s going to take the tempo over and stuff like that. We’ve got to make sure we come out aggressive with a lot of intensity coming into that game.”
The difficulty of matching up with Thomas isn’t rooted in just stopping him or defending Ohio State’s guards. It starts on offense. The Buckeyes (13-4, 3-2 Big Ten) give up the second-fewest points per game and the trio of Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott and Lenzelle Smith Jr., provide major on-ball pressure. Craft and Scott rank third and fourth, respectively, in Big Ten steals.
Craft, the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, has the reputation as a tenacious defender. That could create problems for Iowa freshman guards Anthony Clemmons and Mike Gesell.
“They’re definitely going to have to be ready for that, and truth be told Shannon Scott isn’t much easier,” Marble said. “Both of them are really tough on the ball, and Zelle is, too.
“I think a big key is making sure we don’t turn the ball over and making sure weren’t not turning it over as much as possible and making sure we’re keying on Deshaun offensively because he’s a big key of their offense.”