Coming into Friday night's game at American Airlines Arena in Miami against Memphis on a two-game skid, the Ohio State basketball team had been showing its youth. With no seniors and just one junior on the roster, the Buckeyes are one of the youngest teams in all of college basketball. And they've played like it in home losses to UT Arlington and Louisiana Tech.
In a closely contested game with what seemed like countless ties and lead changes, Ohio State fell short in overtime, 81-76.
Things got off to an ugly start on both sides. Despite a breakneck pace to the action, turnovers and fouls came early and often. By the under-8 timeout, neither team was shooting 40 percent, the Tigers had five turnovers and three players with two personal fouls, and four Buckeyes had picked up two fouls.
Memphis made its first three shots from the floor, jumping out to a 6-2 lead, but then turned it over three straight times down the floor. Ohio State began with 3-9 shooting, but two of those were three-point makes by Marc Loving and JaQuan Lyle, and took an 8-6 lead into the under-16 timeout.
The scoring picked up a bit as the half wore on, and the Buckeyes rode Loving's offensive aggressiveness and Daniel Giddens' energy (and banked-in free throw) to a 21-18 lead with seven and a half minutes to go. For Memphis, senior Shaq Goodwin, whose size was an issue in the paint for the scarlet and gray's frontcourt, scored his 1,000th career point.
Ohio State was outscored by the Tigers 17-16 to finish out the half with a just a two-point lead at 37-35. Lyle did some good work on the offensive end, highlighted by a sweet transition finger-roll and a floater in the lane. The Buckeyes also got the first two non-three-point buckets of freshman Austin Grandstaff's career.
Lyle led all scorers at the half with 13, and Loving added 12. Goodwin had eight to lead Memphis, while Dedric Lawson, the team's star freshman and leading scorer, was limited to five points. Ohio State was just 2-11 from long-range.
The second half saw the Tigers putting an emphasis on getting into the paint, with Lawson and Goodwin getting easy buckets. But the Buckeyes must have found their shooting stroke in the locker room during the intermission, as three-pointers from Lyle, Loving, and Keita Bates-Diop extended the lead to 48-39 less than three minutes in.
Six straight from Goodwin, including 4-4 from the free throw line, a deep make by Avery Woodson, and a baby hook by Lawson helped Memphis ties things up at 50. Sloppy ball-handling by Ohio State led to turnovers on five of six possessions going into the under-12 timeout, and 55-53 deficit.
Out of the timeout, the Buckeyes came out with a renewed energy, going on a 10-4 run to take a 63-59 lead at the under-8. Kam Williams and Grandstaff splashed threes, and Lyle hit Bates-Diop on an absolute dime for a wide open dunk in transition. Lyle would exit the game shortly after, though, with an injury to his right leg.
With Lyle and Loving both on the bench, Jae'Sean Tate became Ohio State's go-to man on the offensive end, knocking down a midrange jumper and depositing a layup. That's when Lawson started taking over for Memphis. A three-point play and a pair of driving layups put Memphis up 72-68 with under four minutes to go.
The Buckeyes scratched back, tying things up at 75 with under a minute remaining on a three-point make by Bates-Diop. After a Goodwin miss and a timeout, the Buckeyes couldn't manage to get off a shot, turning it over on a shot clock violation. On the ensuing possession, Lawson lost the ball and the Tigers had to throw up a desperation heave, which fell short.
In the overtime, both sides looked disjointed with the ball. Ohio State managed to score just one point, and Memphis went on to ice the game at the free throw line.
Lyle scored 18 in a great effort, and Loving added 17. Goodwin led four Tigers in double-figures with a career-high 23.
1. Discipline still an issue. While the referees were calling things pretty close, several Ohio State fouls could have been avoided. Moving screens, charges, and loose ball fouls due to being out of position in rebounding situations have been a constant feature for the Buckeyes in the early season. After averaging 15.5 turnovers through the first four games, the team finished with 19 against the Tigers.
2. Paint toughness. After losing the battle of the boards in the past two games, including giving up 18 offensive rebounds to both UT Arlington and Louisiana Tech, Ohio State showed improvement against Memphis. The Buckeyes were out-rebounded by the Tigers 40-38, and allowed a paltry 10 on the offensive glass. Giddens did a solid job against Goodwin, pulling down six boards and limiting his counterpart to only three.
3. Lyle's efficiency. The freshman from Evansville looked much better against the Tigers than the past couple of games. After going 7-21 from the floor and turning it over seven times in the Buckeyes' two losses, Lyle was much more efficient in running the offense, knocking down perimeter looks and probing off the dribble for high-percentage shots in the midrange game. He also continued to distribute the ball well, pacing the team with eight assists.