The Buckeyes squared off today against their first elite opponent of the season in the Louisville Cardinals and lost a tough game 64-55. Ohio State came into the KFC Yum! Center as 8.5-point dogs in their matchup in the ACC/Big Ten challenge and the Cardinals covered the spread late in the game. In the first half, the Buckeyes struggled to get it together offensively and shot a dismal 23.1% from the field. While Ohio State was able to get by the press early, Louisville's half court defense forced the Buckeyes into ill-advised shots and painful turnovers. Most of the second half was a different story. The Buckeyes were able to get their offense under control and find cleaner, open shots against the tough Cardinal defense.
D'Angelo Russell, the Buckeyes' offensive leader on the young season, struggled to produce with much success offensively in the first half. While he has looked under control and surgical offensively against inferior opponents, the Cardinals' defense made Russell look out of sorts in the first half. They were able to force him into contested jump shots and locked down the Buckeyes' half court offense generally. However, Russell and the Buckeye offense in general was able to turn the corner offensively in the second half.
Ohio State was able to show significant life in the second half against the Cardinals. The Buckeyes labored mightily against the stout Louisville defense and were finally able to get open looks and hit some key jump shots. Struggling to effectively distribute the ball, Scott was absent from the lineup down the stretch as the Buckeyes leaned on a younger lineup to close the gap in the second half.
3 things we learned:
1) The Buckeyes played in their first road game of the season and it showed early. From the opening tip, the energy of the road atmosphere seemed to get the best of the Buckeyes. They played out of control on offense, turned the ball over often, and started a frigid 0/6 from behind the arc and 1/11 from the field. The Bucks didn't hit their second field goal until 9 minutes into the game. The freshmen particularly looked out of control and rushed throughout the first half. D'Angelo Russell forced a number of contested jumpers and Jae'Sean Tate struggled to focus his energy levels on the court, which resulted in senseless fouls and turnovers. Also, the entire team struggled from the free throw line. Unfortunately, that has been a common theme throughout this young season. At the end of the day, the offense struggled in every phase of the game in the first half.
2) The Buckeyes front court is going to struggle a lot this year. Anthony Lee has underwhelmed so far this year, Trey McDonald is undersized, and Amir Williams has struggled to develop into the type of interior player he projected out to in high school. Also, while the zone has promise, it severely affects our already anemic ability to grab rebounds. Montrezl Harrell and Anas Mahmoud proved to be too much on the inside as the Cardinals combined for 27 rebounds in the first half alone. The Buckeyes tried to attack the basket early, but the size and length of Louisville was just too much. If the Buckeyes want to compete with bigger teams like Louisville and Wisconsin through the rest of the year, they are going to need more consistent performances from their front court.
3) This was a tale of two halves for the Buckeyes. As bad as the Buckeyes looked in the first half, they were able to make up for it in the second half. They turned things around offensively and were able to close the gap late with the Cardinals. Russell showed significant improvement in the second half. Where he seemed rushed and out of sorts in the first half, he was under control and effective in the second half. Notwithstanding early foul trouble, Russell was able to take over the offense for the Buckeyes and contribute to an impressive comeback attempt. Despite the loss, their ability to close such a significant gap illustrated the gritty resolve the Buckeyes can play with this year.