Ohio State basketball opened the 2016-17 season in the win column, defeating Navy by a score of 78-68 at the Veterans Classic in Annapolis. It was the first true road game played by the Buckeyes to open the season since 2003.
Kam Williams had a game-high 23 points to lead the scarlet and gray charge, and Keita Bates-Diop made his presence felt, putting up a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Ohio State opened cold, making just one of its first five shot attempts and one of its first three from the free throw line, going more than four minutes without a field goal. Navy, meanwhile, showed that it would work the shot clock patiently and use multiple defensive looks that included three-quarter court pressure, man-to-man, and zone.
The Buckeyes’ were able to pick up the intensity noticeably after the under-16 timeout, though, and a 5 ½-minute field goal drought by the Midshipmen helped Ohio State pull ahead narrowly. Bates-Diop asserted himself on the offensive end, scoring a game-high 14 first half points and grabbed four rebounds, and Williams provided a spark off the bench with seven points of his own.
Navy didn’t back down, keeping the Buckeye lead within five points throughout much of the first 20 minutes and heading to the locker room trailing just 33-28. The Midshipmen were led by Shawn Anderson and Hasan Abdullah, each of whom scored six.
Ohio State committed 14 first half fouls to just seven for Navy, and head coach Thad Matta seemed less than pleased by that fact during his halftime interview, talking about “allegedly fouling.”
The Mids opened the second half with a 7-2 run to tie things up at 35 apiece, but a reverse layup by Jae’Sean Tate and an and-one from Trevor Thompson pushed the lead back out to 40-35 by the under-16 timeout.
Another Williams three-pointer, coupled with a field goal drought of over five minutes and ten consecutive misses by Navy allowed the Buckeyes to take an eight-point advantage.
Ohio State shot the three-pointer well, going 9-for-16 as a team, and Williams was the catalyst. The native of nearby Baltimore knocked down his third triple with just over 12 minutes to play to extend the lead to 50-40, and the Buckeyes never looked back.
A 9-for-11 shooting flourish put things out of reach, though it should be noted that Navy continued to fight and scrap, diving after loose balls and playing physically under the bucket. Abdullah led the Midshipmen with 22 points in the losing effort.
1. KBD came to dominate
Bates-Diop showed flashes of his skillset as a sophomore last season, but he took things to a different level in this year’s opener. The Normal, Illinois native showed a complete game, scoring from the perimeter, on dribble drives, and in the paint.
The Buckeyes’ success this season will turn to a great extent on KBD’s ability to take a big leap forward. It was only one game, but he showed the potential to be one of the team’s alpha dogs on the offensive end.
Bates-Diop also affected the game defensively and on the glass, putting his superior athleticism on display.
2. Point guard controversy?
JaQuan Lyle, Ohio State’s starting point guard, played 11 minutes in the first half of this one, ceding time to sophomore junior college transfer C.J. Jackson.
Lyle was 0-for-2 before getting the early hook, but upon returning splashed a corner three. He finished the half with three points and two assists, while Jackson had three assists and didn’t attempt a shot.
Jackson was on the court again less than three minutes into the second half and Lyle wasn’t seen again. A team-high nine assists from Jackson begs the question of whether or not Lyle might be a better fit playing off the ball at this point.
3. Kam time
Williams showed that he can be an X-factor for the Buckeyes, shooting 7-for-9 from the floor, including 5-for-6 from behind the three-point arc. Despite coming off the bench, he played starter’s minutes, and gave Ohio State the offensive spark it needed.
Last season, Williams shot over 43 percent from distance, and looks poised to be similarly lethal after this game’s eruption. If he stays consistent in his shooting, it will open the floor for the Buckeyes playmakers.