After Iowa and St. John's lost exhibition games to non-DI teams, any game where Ohio State learned, stayed healthy, and got a W would be considered a success. It wasn't always pretty, but Ohio State did grab their first win, holding off Walsh in a game that was way closer than Ohio State would have liked, 92-82.
The Buckeyes jumped all over the Cavaliers to start the game, grabbing a 9-0 run that ballooned to 14-3 early, but Walsh ripped off a 10-0 run of their own to pull within a single point thanks to some timely three point shooting, and hung around the entire first half, tossing in a buzz beater to climb within three, 43-40, at the break. Jesse Hardin lead Walsh with 14 points at halftime, including four three pointers. The Cavs shot from downtown early and often, making eight threes off 42% shooting in the first half.
Keita Bates-Diop lead all scorers with 15 first half points in the first half, thanks to 3-4 shooting from downtown, plus a few drives to the basket. Marc Loving added nine, and JaQuan Lyle had seven for the Buckeyes, who shot 50% from the floor and outrebounded the smaller Cavs 26-17, but saw themselves in a close game thanks to fouls, turnovers, and hot shooting. For as close as the game was, Ohio State also never trailed.
The Buckeyes looked to Marc Loving to try and pull away, but Walsh's ability to bomb away from three let them hang around, tying the game with 13:20 left, before a Marc Loving bomb and some timely defense finally allowed Ohio State to pull away thanks to a 7-0 run. James Hardin lead Walsh with 27 points, and Zac Carter added 18 points and six assists. Keita Bates-Diop dropped in 26 and eight rebounds, while Marc Loving added 24 and 10 boards. JaQuan Lyle had 16 points, nine rebounds and seven dimes.
Ohio State shot 52% from the floor, and 40% from downtown. They also shot 83% from the charity stripe, and outrebounded Walsh 43-34. They had a 40-24 points in the paint advantage, blocked five shots, and had three steals. Walsh had 16 assists to Ohio State's 14. Walsh made 14 three pointers.
Three things we learned
1) This game doesn't count. I mean, that should go without saying, but let's remind everybody again, just in case. Ohio State was taller and more talented at every position, and while they were playing to win, the point was to try some different situations, get game atmosphere experience, and grow. Ohio State's rotations, strategy and more reflected the true purpose, as well as the mostly empty arena, so anything real that we try to glean from this should be taken with the appropriate grain of salt. One of Ohio State's best players, Jae'Sean Tate, didn't even play. If Ohio State played Walsh in two weeks, it probably isn't a three point game at halftime ... or if it was, the Buckeyes have some serious problems.
2) Fouls were an issue. Thad Matta indicated that fouls were a concern in Ohio State's scrimmage against Bowling Green, and that continued to day, giving Walsh plenty of time to live in the bonus, and robbing the Buckeyes of offensive sets. Giddens and Thompson picked up three fouls each in the first half, in part thanks to illegal screens, and the team picked up 14. That lead to 14 free throws for the Cavaliers, a huge number for a team that shot so many three pointers. Ohio State finished with 20 fouls, with virtually everybody who played picking up multiple fouls. The Buckeyes have the length and the athleticism to be effective defenders this season, but they're going to need to learn how to do it without fouling. That will take time for such an inexperienced team, and could be something to watch for in the early season contests.
3) Ohio State's wings look improved from last year. Given the inexperience all over Ohio State's roster, the Buckeyes will need leadership and strong performances from their wings, especially wings with some game experience, and they delivered. Marc Loving showed some aggressiveness in taking the ball to the basket and on the block, as well as on the glass, even though his three point stroke wasn't as on. Bates-Diop was the leading scorer, showing range, as well as the ability to put the ball on the floor. Both players weren't just active scoring the ball, but on defense, with rebounding, and with their hustle. It seems likely that those two, along with Jae'Sean Tate, and newcomer JaQuan Lyle, will have the responsibility for making this offense go, and we saw flashes of that today. Ohio State probably can't play Tate, Loving and Bates-Diop all at the same time, which means Thad Matta is going to have some coaching choices to make.