Sean Harrington's Insider: How to beat Ohio State

Sean Harrington's Insider: How to beat Ohio State

Each week through the basketball season, former Illini and current BTN analyst Sean Harrington will break down the Big Ten  — and provide a scouting report on a critical weekend game:


Michigan (14-0, 1-0)
— The Wolverines looked like the No. 2 team in the country with a beatdown of Northwestern.  

Indiana (13-1, 1-0)
— The Hoosiers didn’t win in convincing fashion at Carver- Hawkeye Arena, but it was the first time Iowa lost at home this season.  

Minnesota (13-1, 1-0)
— The Gophers got off to a great start by protecting the home court against a solid Michigan State squad.  

Ohio State (11-2, 1-0)
— The Buckeyes made easy work of Nebraska. A road game at Illinois gives them a chance to make a statement.  

Illinois (13-2, 0-1)
— The loss at Purdue will haunt the Illini all season. A home win against Ohio State can soften the blow.      

Michigan St. (11-3, 0-1)
— The Spartans showed at Minnesota that they will be a very hard out even when they travel to tough road environments.

Iowa (11-3, 0-1)
— The Hawkeyes had a chance to make a huge statement and steal a win against the Hoosiers, but they couldn’t finish the deal.  

Wisconsin (10-4, 1-0)
— The Badgers were unimpressive in their slim victory against Penn State.

Purdue (7-6, 1-0)
— The Boilers got a big win against the Illini. Still have a long way to go after a very rough nonconference.

Northwestern (9-5, 0-1)
— The Wildcats showed it could be a long season after they were thumped at home by Michigan.

Nebraska (9-5, 0-1)
— Unfortunately for the Cornhuskers, the next three games don’t get any easier.  

Penn State (8-5, 0-1)
—The Nittany Lions didn’t have the firepower to close out a potential upset in Madison, Wis.

Terone Johnson

Scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a huge upset win against the Illini. He also held Brandon Paul to seven points in the first 37 minutes.  


Before every game the coaches present players with scouting reports on the opposing team. The reports expose the tendencies of the opposition and highlight effective strategies to win. This is not the real scouting report; it is my own analysis of Illinois’ strategies for defeating Ohio State (1:15 p.m. Saturday, BTN, WDWS 1400-AM, WHMS 97.5-FM)

Scouting report

Personnel (top eight players)

#1 Deshaun Thomas
Leading scorer and rebounder. Lefty. Shoots a lot of threes. Will set ball screens and pop for three. They will back screen him into the post. Likes to score over his right shoulder in the post. Contest all shots. Block him out at all times. Make him score over his left shoulder in the post. Pressure him on the perimeter.  

#32 Lenzelle Smith Jr.
Lefty. Good three-point shooter. Almost half his shots are threes. Good athlete and runs the floor hard. Hits the boards well for a guard. Crowd him on the perimeter. Make him put the ball on the floor to create a shot. Force him right on the drive. Find him in transition.  

#10 LaQuinton Ross
Long athlete. Puts up quick shots from anywhere. Can drive to the rim. Decent midrange game. Contest his shot. Pressure him on the perimeter, he will turn it over. Find him in transition. Force him left on the drive.

#4 Aaron Craft
Smart, steady point guard. Really pressures on defense. Good shooter with time. Looks to pass first, shoot second. Slow him down in transition. Make him finish, don’t leave your man to double him. Keep him in front of you. Protect the ball around him.

#12 Sam Thompson
Great athlete. Runs the floor really well. Hits the boards hard. Average shooter with time. Box out at all times. Find him early in transition. Don’t fly out at him, make him make a few first. Make him drive left. Be aware of lob plays for him, especially from baseline out of bounds.

#3 Shannon Scott
Really pushes the ball well in transition. Wants to drive first and shoot second. Much better driving right than left. Leads the team in steals. Slow him down in transition. Make him drive left.  Closeout on the shot but know he wants to drive. Protect the ball around him.

#30 Evan Ravenel
Big, strong body. Post up hard. Wants to score over his left shoulder in the post. Will ball screen and dive. Box him out. Make him score in the post using his left hand. Push him off the block. He needs an angle to score.

#23 Amir Williams
Very strong and athletic. Great shot blocker. Scores around the rim. Prefers to use his right hand at the basket. Box him out at all times. Make him score over you. Make him use his left hand around the rim.  


— Wear them down           
— Make ‘em play a halfcourt game

Keys to stopping Ohio State
Make the Buckeyes play a halfcourt game. Use a bumper to slow down Craft and Scott in the backcourt. Find the wings early in transition; they run hard to the corners. Ohio State will set a lot of ball screens. When the ball screen is set high on the floor, the guard should go under the screen so the big doesn’t have to help. If the ball screen is set in the scoring areas, it is good to switch 1-4. Guard Thomas with a smaller player.  He struggles when a quicker defender is on him.  When he posts up the smaller guard, send a trap with a post player to force the ball back out. Ohio State loves to set multiple screens for Thomas on each possession. Guards are more used to getting through these actions. On baseline out of bounds the Buckeyes will run a double/double screen with Thomas being the second cutter for the shot.  Be physical and pressure Ohio State. Make them work hard on the offensive end. They usually only play eight guys, and they can wear down at the end of games, causing their shots to come up short. A 2-3 zone can be used occasionally to disrupt rhythm, but you must find shooters and box out in the zone.  

Keys to scoring on Ohio State
Ohio State is primarily a man-to-man team. They like to pressure the guards. Smith and Thompson are very good at getting into the passing lanes so make good passes around them. They can be beat backdoor. Craft and Scott really pressure the ball handler. You must protect the ball around them. Use a “crack back,” which is a big man setting a ball screen in the backcourt on the guard to release pressure. Thomas can be lazy on defense at times. Use him in a lot of ball screens. Ohio State likes to force side ball screens to the baseline. There are two ways to beat this. First is to have the guard reject the screen and beat the big on the baseline to the basket. The other way is to pop or slip the big setting the ball screen to the top. Here he will have an open shot or an angle to drive to the lane to make a play. Ohio State can be beat in transition. Because they attack the boards, they don’t get back on defense every time.  

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jwillenbo wrote on January 04, 2013 at 9:01 am

Mr. Harrington dropping knowledge.

FloridaIllini wrote on January 04, 2013 at 11:01 am

Good stuff, Sean.  Is anybody on the team listening or can they just not execute what you are telling them?  Can you do something about rebounding?  How can Dennis Rodman lead the NBA in rebounding at 6' 7" and we can hardly get one that doesn't bounce right to us?  You could put 5 guys my height (5'9") and age (66) on the court and we would get pretty close to the Illini rebounding numbers by just standing there and grabbing what bounces right to us!


Love your comments- keep it up!

geriatricillini wrote on January 04, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Makes me want to suit up!...These are worth the read every time. No basketball fluff..just basketball stuff...