Cody Cousino / Photo editor
There was a time when Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta referred to sophomore forward DeShaun Thomas as just “Shaun.”
“I’m saying there’s no ‘D’ in your game,” Matta said of Thomas.
Known for his offensive abilities and quick shooting release to some, Thomas displayed a complete game Friday night in OSU’s 88-71 victory against Purdue in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Big Ten Tournament. He finished with 22 points on 6-of-8 shooting with seven rebounds, including three on the offensive end that led to put-back scores.
Despite his offensive production, Thomas’ defensive contributions were arguably just as, if not more, important to the Buckeyes attaining the win. Thomas was the primary defender on Purdue senior forward and first-team All-Big Ten selection Robbie Hummel, who was limited to 2-of- 8 shooting and just six points, well below his season average of 16.6 points.
Matta said he has since gone back to referring to Thomas as “Deshaun.”
“Deshaun is really taking to the defensive end,” Matta said. “I joke with him about it because he’s really done a nice job of accepting the role, learning the game, studying the game. That’s the first thing he talks about now after a game is the defense. One of the biggest things is defensively when he makes a mistake, he knows it. And that’s important to me.”
Thomas said he’s had past coaches other than Matta who have made similar jokes with his name in regards to his defensive play. He’s put a lot of focus on improving that facet of his game.
“I take very good pride in my (defense) because at the next level and at this level, you’ve got to play defense to win ball games,” Thomas said.
The Buckeyes will hope to get a comparable effort from Thomas on both ends of the floor against Michigan in the semifinals Saturday. He will likely draw the task of defending Wolverines sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr., who averaged 14.5 points during the regular season.
Luckily for OSU, Thomas is feeling right at home in Indianapolis.
An Indiana native, Thomas won two high school state championships in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the same location of this weekend’s games.
“It felt like I was home (Friday),” Thomas said. “I’ve played in this gym since I was in high school, so it’s very comfortable in this gym.”
Tip between the second-seeded Wolverines and No. 3-seed Buckeyes is set for 25 minutes after the completion of the first semifinal game between top seed Michigan State and fourth-seeded Wisconsin, which begins Saturday at 1:40 p.m.