Ohio State Basketball: Bucks 2-0 through First Weekend

MADISON, WI - JANUARY 12: Nigel Hayes
MADISON, WI - JANUARY 12: Nigel Hayes /

Ohio State basketball team off to a good start.

The Ohio State men’s basketball team had two matchups over the weekend, Friday against the Robert Morris Colonials, and Sunday afternoon against the Redford Highlanders. I went out to support the Bucks both days, and can say while there is a lot to work on I’m impressed.

Friday night the Bucks took care of business. They shot 59.7% from the field and more than doubled the Colonial’s number of rebounds. As many expected the Bucks struggles behind the arc shooting under 30% but made up for it inside, scoring the majority of their buckets from inside the paint. Free throw shooting was all an area in need of improvement as Ohio State shot just 62.5%.

Keita Bates-Diop’s stamp on the game was by far the most impressive showing he is the go to guy on offense. Bates-Diop shot 9-12 from the field totaling for 19 points. He also collected 11 boards and had 2 blocks.

Kam Williams also had a solid offensive performance with 16 points. Freshman Kaleb Wesson and Musa Jallow ended the night with 13 and 11.

Defensively, Ohio State was solid, giving up 64 points and holding Robert Morris to just 35% from the floor. The Buckeyes also forced 18 turnovers converting that into many transition opportunities. 6’4 Senior Jae’Sean Tate was the biggest defensive threat snatching 3 steals as well as 8 defensive rebounds.

Struggling from both the free throw and three-point line were issues, but the Bucks were never in discomfort due to their inside game, a performance that was very much alike their pre-season matchup vs Wooster.

Sunday, I don’t think the Bucks took a step forward or backward as they were much of the same against Radford. Poor perimeter shooting but continued dominance in the paint, on both ends of the court. Games with both under 30% three-point shooting and less than 75 percent from the charity stripe will not get you far in the Big 10, and both games the Buckeyes have fallen into that category.

Ohio State was thrown a 2-3 zone by Radford, opening up three-point opportunities; however the Bucks simple couldn’t convert making just 8 of 27 attempts. Not to mention the perimeter defense was nearly as bad as the perimeter offense, allowing Radford to shoot 50 percent from beyond the arc as the Highlanders hit 11 of 22 shots.

Despite the shooting struggles the Buckeyes won 82-72 and dominated in close. They were again led by junior Keita Bates-Diop who scored 22 and had double-digit rebounds.

Guard CJ Jackson scored a career high 19 to help the Bucks. He was also a key to breaking the man to man press, the first time the Buckeyes saw pressure all season.

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One story that is developing is the play of freshman big man Kaleb Wesson, who is played past expectations to start the year. Coming off the bench in both games, Wesson has come in as a defensive presence and hustle player on the boards.

Making an impact beyond the stat line is something I believe Wesson provides more than starting Center Micah Potter. While Potter has played well, his hesitation on the defensive end scares me, and I think Wesson’s minutes will increase more and more as the season goes on.

Ohio State has a lot to build on, and still much time to get in sync before conference play begins. Limiting turnovers and transition threes are my top 2 areas of need for the Buckeyes, and guys who can contribute to those are going to see more minutes. Holtmann has rotated 8 or 9 guys in both games and is still looking to see who he can trust late in the game.

Next: Inside running game the key just as it was in 2014

Ohio State’s next matchup is Thursday night against Texas Southern, a team with more height than any team the Buckeyes have seen. I’m looking forward to this challenge for the Bucks inside players, and also to see if they can improve their numbers from the outside.