February 28, 2011

Diebler still adding to his game

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In five years at Ohio State, senior David Lighty has seen a lot of film. In that time, he has become accustomed to recognizing his teammates' tendencies.

That's why when Lighty was watching film late last week as the team prepped for Sunday's game against Indiana, he looked back at Jon Diebler and cracked a smile.

He noticed Diebler's growth first hand.

"Dave turned around started laughing," Diebler said. "He kind of gave me a look like, 'What are you doing?'"

The game film the team was watching was from Ohio State's win over Illinois early in the week and the Buckeyes were working on extending its lead over the Illini in the first half to double-digits.

Diebler caught the ball deep in the corner with about a foot of room, usually ideal territory for the senior to bomb one away from beyond the arc. Had he shot the ball, there was about a 50 percent chance it would have gone down, and a three would have been a big blow to Illinois.

Diebler didn't shoot.

"For three straight years, that ball would have been shot," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said of that play.

Instead, Diebler put the ball on the floor, penetrated on the converging Illinois defense, and drew a shooting foul. He passed up on a good shot - the one from beyond the arc that Matta wouldn't have had a problem with being shot - and turned it into his highest percentage shot: free throws.

The biggest criticism of Diebler has been that he is a 1-dimensional player. His biggest talents, of course, is catching the ball with space and bombing away open looks from beyond the arc.

It is in that way that Diebler -- a native of Upper Sandusky, Ohio -- has become the Big Ten Conference's all-time leading 3-point shooter.

But through all the success being Ohio State's lethal weapon from long range, Diebler has struggled to create his own shot. The dribble-drive game has been non-existent in his first three years with the program, but as of late Diebler has made a concerted effort to pass up open looks in favor of driving.

"He put in the work pretty much every day, working on penetration left and right and getting to the basket and finishing at the basket," Lighty said. "It makes him that much harder to defend. If I was checking him, I wouldn't be ready for that."

Added Matta: "It just puts another guy on the floor that can do multiple things for us."

Diebler has become accustomed to the way opponents have guarded him and he even mentioned that everyone seems to attack him in the same way.

And the statistics will show that opposing teams are becoming more effecient in slowing down Diebler's shot attmepts from beyond the arc.

In Ohio State's first six games in Big Ten play, Diebler was averaging just over six attempts from long range per game. In the past 10 games -- including Ohio State's win over Indiana Sunday -- Diebler has attempted six 3-pointers only once.

Because the senior has proven he is deadly when given any room to get a shot off cleanly, opponents have committed themselves to not allowing Diebler to get any breathing room, regardless of whether or not he has the ball.

Having the ability to take the defender off the drive will open things up for Diebler. It keeps the defender honest with the spacing and gives the senior another option to be an even more efficient offensive threat.

When penetrating the defense effectively -- especially after the defender has committed himself to defending the 3-point shot -- Diebler gains positioning and often will draw fouls in the paint. This, of course, will allow Ohio State's best free throw shooter an opportunity to hurt opponents from the line.

"Teams have really been pressing up on me," Diebler said. "I'm just trying to let the game come to me, not trying to force anything. But if the guy's going to be on me, I have to be able to put the ball on the floor."

The No. 3 Buckeyes (26-2, 14-2 Big Ten) are on the verge of their second consecutive Big Ten title and are favorites to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Diebler is just hoping to give opposing teams one more thing to think about in the most crucial time of the year.

"I think it's something I really needed to do," Diebler said, "Because it's making (it) that much harder to match up with me."

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.


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