Thad Matta led his Ohio State Buckeyes to not only their first win of the new college basketball season, but his 300th win as head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes with a 76-54 win over Mount St. Mary's. Matta is the first to ever do so at the school in coaching men's hoops.
The Buckeyes got off to a quick start against the Mountaineers. JaQuan Lyle and Marc Loving both had five points apiece in the first four minutes and change. Mount St. Mary's went over five minutes without a basket early, but somehow stuck around and were only down 16-7 after nine minutes of play. Junior Robinson held Mount St. Mary's close with five of their first nine points.
The Buckeyes size advantage really began to show in the latter end of the first half. The Buckeyes would go on a 17-0 run after being up 20-13, giving them a 37-13 lead. During the run, we saw big dunks from Keita Bates-Diop, along with two from Daniel Giddens, one being an absolute monster putback. Jae'Sean Tate had 11 of the Buckeyes 17 points during the stretch, a pair of his baskets were assisted by JaQuan Lyle.
Ohio State would take a 42-21 lead into halftime. Jae'Sean Tate led the team in scoring with 14 points. JaQuan Lyle had 11 points, four rebounds, and three assists, while Keita Bates-Diop had a team-high eight rebounds in the half. Daniel Giddens contributed a solid six points and four rebounds off the bench for the Buckeyes. Junior Robinson led Mount St. Mary's with nine points for the half.
Jae'Sean Tate picked up where the left off in the second half with five points in the first five minutes of the half. Teammate Keita Bates-Diop also had four quick points in the half. The Buckeyes effort in the second half didn't appear nearly as strong though, which is understandable with such a young team, and a game clearly out of reach.
With that effort, Mount St. Mary's was able to get the lead down to a more reachable 14 points with just over 10 minutes remaining in the half, leading to an Ohio State timeout after a 9-2 run by the Mountaineers. But, after a timeout, the Buckeyes would go on an 8-2 run of their own to recapture an 18-point lead at 60-42.
The Mountaineers would yet again trim the lead with a couple of explosive plays, keeping the game somewhat interesting with five minutes of play remaining at 64-51, but then the Buckeyes found their motivation again, and pulled away from Mount St. Mary's to close the game out on a 12-3 run, winning 76-54.
Three things we learned
1. This will be a potentially exciting team to watch. Ohio State has quite the group of guys here. It was fun to watch the young Buckeyes free-flowing out there on the floor, where it seemed we got a glimpse of what everybody's individual game was. We also saw at least a little something of what we were hoping out of each individual player. We saw explosive plays from Daniel Giddens, Keita Bates-Diop, and Jae'Sean Tate, and we saw scoring out of Marc Loving and JaQuan Lyle.
All the games aren't going to be this easy, but if this is going to be the style of play for the Buckeyes, this should be pretty fun. The Buckeyes might run into trouble against teams that match up better in terms of size, but the Buckeyes appear to have the shooting and ball movement to compete fairly well. The Buckeyes had 11 turnovers in the first half, but many of those came after the Buckeyes had taken a big lead, and the team were making more risky passes, and trying to get everybody involved in the scoring.
2. JaQuan Lyle's success will be extremely important. Lyle started off this game really fast, with a quick three pointer and a commanding driving layup, using his body to fend off defenders. His length and size is an extreme advantage at the position, considering most point guards in college basketball aren't his size. Ohio State seemed in control when the ball was in his hands, and his ability to not only score, but to pass made him very tough to guard for Mount St. Mary's, and will be a challenge for teams moving forward, as long as he has success.
It's tough enough as it is to guard a guy like Lyle when he can score from anywhere on the floor, but his ability to control the ball and get it where it needs to be makes things extremely difficult. It was clear early that players on the Mountaineers wanted to give help defense on Lyle, but his passing ability led to good looks at the basket for his teammates. While it didn't quite show up on the stats sheet, the attention he drew was key, and could help Ohio State's bigs.
3. A scorer down low still needs to be established. Trevor Thompson did not have a great game for the Buckeyes. He was very much nonexistent for the Buckeyes on the offensive end, and through 30 minutes of play, had two rebounds, and three turnovers. His first shot attempt and points game with 8:35 left in the game. And while Daniel Giddens gave good production off the bench, the majority of his points came off of dunks, not necessarily creating his own shot.
To have success, especially in a league as competitive as the Big Ten, the Buckeyes will need to find scoring underneath the basket. The extreme athletic ability of Giddens will provide for a great defensive presence, but to really compete, the Buckeyes will need some kind of threat underneath the basket. The Buckeyes undoubtedly have talented guards and forwards capable of providing plenty of scoring, but balance is key, and it needs to be found.