The Buckeyes entered head coach Thad Matta's 400th career game on the sideline for Ohio State in the midst of a four-game losing streak, winless in over two weeks. While growing pains were to be expected for one of the youngest teams in college basketball, few would have foreseen a 2-4 record through the first six games.
Against a scrappy but ultimately overmatched team from the Virginia Military Institute, Matta's squad finally got back into the win column with a 89-62 victory on Saturday at Value City Arena. Junior Marc Loving paced the Buckeyes, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. Sophomores Keita Bates-Diop and Jae'Sean Tate added 12 and 17, respectively.
The Keydets were led by junior QJ Peterson's game-high 23 and senior Tim Marshall's 12, and attempted an astronomical 31 three-point field goals.
After turning the ball over on its first possession (surprise!) and falling behind 2-0, Ohio State took the lead on a three-point make from Bates-Diop and looked to be on its way to cruising to an easy victory. The sophomore from Normal, Illinois teamed with classmate Tate and Loving to help the scarlet and gray push out to a 19-9 lead.
But some ill-conceived shots in transition that didn't fall, coupled with VMI knocking down a pair of threes, led to an 11-1 run for the Keydets, tying things up at 20 shortly after the under-12 timeout. The Keydets actually took the lead, 23-22, thanks to Marshall and junior forward Trey Chapman.
At that point, Ohio State woke up, ratcheting up the defensive intensity, getting more active on the glass, and running solid offensive sets. A 20-8 run, ignited by freshman point guard JaQuan Lyle's pinpoint passing and Bates-Diop's aggressiveness, sent the Buckeyes into the locker room up 42-31.
The second half started sluggishly, with both sides shooting poorly and playing a bit careless with the ball. Ohio State, which only had three first half turnovers, had doubled that total within the half's first five minutes.
Loving, Tate, and sophomore big man Trevor Thompson got going, though, and the Buckeyes opened up their biggest lead of the game, 60-42. A 20-3 run ultimately blew things open, giving Ohio State a 20-plus point lead.
Loving's 11 points after the intermission, coupled with Tate's 10, proved more than enough to get the scarlet and gray back in the win column.
1. You down with KBD?
It's been apparent in the early going of the season that Loving has been actively trying to be more assertive on the offensive end. That appears to be rubbing off on Bates-Diop. The long, athletic wing consistently looked to get into the paint off the dribble early and often against VMI en route to 12 first half points. When Loving started heating up after the half, Bates-Diop took a backseat, but his early scoring was crucial to the win.
2. Ball security is a good thing
Ohio State entered the game averaging more turnovers per game than assists. Imagine the surprise for anyone that has watched them when the Buckeyes had only three miscues in the first half, and just nine for the entire game. Lyle played his best game as far as taking care of the ball is concerned, dishing four assists and not turning it over once in the first half. He finished with seven dimes and just one turnover, also scoring eight points and grabbing six rebounds.
3. Trevor Thompson wishes OSU always played VMI
With Daniel Giddens out of the lineup, Thompson started in the middle for Matta, and had by far his best game as a Buckeye. The tallest player on the court had good energy in the paint, and had his first double figure scoring effort, putting up 13 points on 6-9 shooting and grabbing 10 rebounds. As Big Ten play approaches, Ohio State will need consistency from both Thompson and Giddens to stay competitive.