FORT WAYNE – Deshaun Thomas is the leading scorer in the Big Ten.
And, according to Purdue coach Matt Painter, the Ohio State junior and Bishop Luers graduate might be the best scoring forward in the country.
The Boilermakers (7-7, 1-1 Big Ten) face Thomas and the Buckeyes today at Mackey Arena.
Deshaun Thomas is as good as it gets when you talk about a combo forward that can put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways, Painter said during a teleconference Monday.
Thomas is averaging 20.2 points. He’s also seventh in the conference in rebounding, averaging 6.8 per contest. He’s helped the No. 15 Buckeyes to an 11-3 start (1-1 in the Big Ten).
I like the way he’s playing, Ohio State coach Thad Matta said during Monday’s Big Ten teleconference.
He’s continuing to expand his role on this team and have a very good understanding of what he needs to do and when he needs to do it. I like the fact that winning and losing is very, very important to him.
Those are things that you want from a junior. I’ve been pleased with how he has played to this point.
The preseason All-American has scored at least 20 points in both of the Buckeyes Big Ten games this season. He had 22 points in a win against Nebraska and 24 in a loss to Illinois.
The Boilermakers will defend Thomas in a variety of ways.
A lot of different people will be on him, Painter said. I don’t think you stop a guy like that. You just try to make it tough on him and slow him down. Just don’t let him catch the ball in a sweet spot. When he gets in a rhythm, he makes it when people are on him. You have to try your best to keep him out of a rhythm. But that’s easier said than done.
Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. add support for the Buckeyes. Craft is third in the Big Ten in assists (4.9 per game) and fifth in steals (1.9). Smith is the only other Ohio State player averaging double figures in scoring (11.4 points per game).
But it all starts with Thomas.
They are playing to their strengths, Painter said. They have maybe the best scoring forward in the country and their offense is run through him and rightfully so. Everything really goes through Deshaun and they play off of that.
Craft is a great point guard and he gets guys where they need to be. When Smith is going, Sam Thompson is slashing and Craft is picking his spots and Deshaun is just having a regular game, they are very difficult to stop.
Note: Painter was asked about an incident from Saturday’s game involving Michigan State’s Branden Dawson and Purdue’s Travis Carroll, specifically whether he thought a punch was thrown at Carroll.
The Big Ten needs to handle that. I need to get our guys to make better decisions, Painter said.
We’ll see when they make a ruling. I’ll comment on it at that time.