On the heels of one of the more embarrassing losses in recent program history this past Friday, the Ohio State basketball team lost a second straight against an unranked opponent tonight against Louisiana Tech, 82-74, at Value City Arena. With the loss, part of the Basketball Hall Of Fame Classic, the Buckeyes dropped to 2-2
The Bulldogs came into the game ranked No. 115 in the country by KenPom, with a 3-0 record which included a 12-point victory over the same UT-Arlington team that stunned the Buckeyes. That Ohio State loss was just the second during Thad Matta's tenure to an unranked non-conference opponent.
In the first half, Ohio State fell into a 7-0 hole almost immediately thanks to an 0-4 start from the field and a couple of turnovers. After the Buckeyes battled back to tie things up at 12 shortly after the under-16 timeout, La Tech sped the game up, which flustered Ohio State on offense and had them scrambling on defense. A pair of three-point makes from from Dayon Griffin and a fast break layup by Alex Hamilton sparked an 8-0 run for a 20-12 lead for the Bulldogs.
That's when it seemed to start sinking in to the Buckeyes that a game was going on. A 13-5 run, highlighted by a deep triple from freshman Austin Grandstaff and a sweeping transition layup by sophomore Keita Bates-Diop, knotted things up once again at 25 at the under-8 timeout.
In a game of runs, Louisiana Tech went on another with a balanced inside-out attack, pulling out to a 38-29 lead thanks to Hamilton and Leantwan Luckett. But Ohio State clawed back, outscoring the Bulldogs 9-4 over the final two and a half minutes, to trail 42-38 at the half.
The Buckeyes' lone upper-classman, junior Marc Loving, led all scorers with 11 points at the intermission. Luckett had 10 and Hamilton added eight for La Tech.
Half number two followed much the same script, as the Bulldogs got off to an 8-4 start in the first four minutes, with several long rebounds giving Louisiana Tech second chances. Erik McCree dropped two jumpers and assisted on a ferocious alley-oop dunk by Jacobi Boykins.
Bates-Diop, Loving, and Grandstaff keyed the Buckeyes' ensuing rally, reeling off a 15-4 run to tie the game at 55.
But the disparity in experience between the two rosters became apparent as the second half played out. La Tech continued to mix attacking the paint with clutch outside shooting to pull away and then sustain the lead. Ohio State never held the lead in the entire 40 minutes, and ultimately fell, 82-74.
Loving finished the night with a game-high 25 points for the home team, while Hamilton led four Bulldogs in double-figures with 24.
1. Perhaps UT-Arlington wasn't a fluke
With no seniors and only one junior on the roster, Ohio State is one of the youngest teams in all of college basketball. As such, the Buckeyes are going to be frustrating to watch at times as they vacillate between electric athleticism and infuriating inexperience. Young teams take time to learn how to close out games, and in some cases, how to start them and play the middle of them. But early season issues are teachable moments for the coaching staff, and provide an opportunity for the kids in the scarlet and gray to grow up.
2. Free throw shooting has lots of room for improvement
After back-to-back games knocking down 50 percent or fewer of their free throws, the Buckeyes once again struggled from the charity stripe. Ohio State, which was 13-26 against Grambling State and 13-27 against UT-Arlington, improved slightly to 17-27 against Louisiana Tech. But that 63 percent effort must rise.
3. Ohio State needs to get tougher on the boards
As was the case against UT-Arlington, there were times in tonight's game when the Buckeyes looked helpless against a mid-major opponent in the rebounding game. With only a few exceptions during the game, Ohio State's size was superior to that of Louisiana Tech, but the total margin on the boards was close. The Bulldogs won the rebounding battle, 41 to 40, and grabbed 18 on the offensive glass. It should be noted, however, that sophomore Jae'Sean Tate hauled in 12 rebounds in the losing effort.