The grand experiment continues Thursday night for Ohio State. Can a team win if it can't shoot?

Shannon Scott is shooting 21.4 percent (3 for 14) in his last three games.

Lenzelle Smith is shooting 31.8 percent (14 for 44) in his last five games.

Aaron Craft is shooting 37.5 percent (9 for 24) in his last four games.

LaQuinton Ross is shooting 38.5 percent (20 for 52) in his last four games.

Yet the No. 17 Buckeyes (15-4, 2-4 Big Ten) may be on a four-game losing streak more because they've stopped helping on defense, paralyzed at times when opponents beat the first OSU defender off the dribble or off a screen, and have allowed teams to attack them inside.

“It's definitely the defense, definitely the defense,” said Sam Thompson, the one Buckeye who has been shooting well, making 58.1 percent of his shots during this slide. “That's been the real staple of our program for my entire career here. As long as I've been here, we've been one of the top defensive teams in the country.

"We've been a team that's gotten offense off our defense. We've been a team that can really control the game from the defensive end. The last three games especially, we've made some uncharacteristic mistakes and seen ourselves give away games at the end on the defensive end.”

The question is whether the defense has suffered because the offense has become such a struggle. As Thompson pointed out, the Buckeyes haven't changed who they are. The defense-first team that started 15-0 has now lost four straight. And the defense hasn't been as good.

But maybe the streak shows this model isn't sustainable. The Buckeyes can be elite on defense. Rallying against Nebraska on Monday to take the lead after trailing by 14 at one point, Ohio State made the Cornhuskers look like they couldn't even get a shot at the rim.

The defense was dominating, as it has been during other stretches this season. But the defense is also under a lot of pressure when every basket for the Buckeyes is a grind. When nothing comes easy on offense, might it get more difficult to get back and focus on defense?

“We definitely have to get something going (on offense) to be a successful basketball team,” Scott said. “Sure, there will be times when we aren't a great shooting team, but we'll still be capable of winning games because of our defense. But as of late, we're putting too much pressure on our defense trying to make every single stop to win the game. If our shooting goes back to what it was earlier in the year, games should be easier for us and there should be less pressure on our defense.”