After a season opening 78-68 win against the Naval Academy in Annapolis on Friday, the Ohio State Men’s Basketball team took to the Value City Arena floor for the first time this season on Monday night. Even though the game was painful to watch at times, the Buckeyes notched their second win of the young season by besting the North Carolina Central Eagles 69-63.
Neither team was especially sharp in their second game on the season; the teams combined for 43 fouls (OSU- 16, N.C. Central- 27) and 35 turnovers (OSU- 14, N.C. Central- 21). While head coach Thad Matta and his staff has been hoping to improve the team’s shooting from last season, the Buckeyes were at their offensive best when they were able to exercise their athletic advantage in the lane. The team shot only 6-21 from three-point land, while going 17-26 in the paint.
Jae’Sean Tate and Micah Potter led the way for the Buckeyes; the pair combined for 34 points, with Tate supplying 21 on 8-12 shooting. He also chipped in with nine rebounds.
Much like the game against Navy, OSU got out to a fairly slow start on Monday night. The game’s first two possessions served as a bit of an indication as to what would follow as the refs called back-to-back offensive fouls to open the game; there would be many more of them to follow. Then, Ohio State’s lone senior, Marc Loving, was forced to exit the game just 1:15 in, after picking up his second foul. He finished the game with only three points.
Both teams were sloppy early, with N.C. Central racking up six turnovers, and Ohio State five, in the game’s first 13 minutes, but after the Eagles took an early 11-9 lead, the Buckeyes went on a 12-0 run. Potter started for the second straight game, and after being left alone on a switch, the 6’9” center hit a three-pointer to mark his first points in a Buckeye uniform. He finished the first half with nine points, all on threes.
However, over the next three minutes, the Eagles used a combination of transition buckets and drives to the lane to go on a 14-2 run to reclaim the lead at 25-23 with 4:20 left in the opening half. Throughout the night, the Ohio State offense appeared to be incredibly sedentary, with Buckeyes standing more often than not. Tate kept the Buckeyes in the game in the final minutes of the half, with 11 points and three rebounds at halftime.
With Ohio State leading 28-27 with under two minutes to play in the first period, Matta called for a full-court press that led to a shot-clock violation, the Eagles’ 10th turnover of the game. As the clock ran out on the first half, JaQuan Lyle hit a three-pointer to take a 31-29 lead into the locker room. The point-guard would finish with just five points.
NC Central senior guard Patrick Cole led the way with 10 first half points on 4-7 shooting for the Eagles, including three buckets underneath the basket. He ended up being the game’s top scorer with 26.
The first-ever meeting between the teams was a bit of a double-header with the No. 7 OSU women’s team falling No. 4 South Carolina 92-80.
Early in the second half, Ohio State appeared to be focused on getting the ball in the lane through some inside cuts to the elbow. The first four Buckeye buckets after the half came inside the lane, as OSU extended its lead to 40-32. However, the team got away from the inside game and began settling for shots from distance, as the offense again became stagnant.
Two minutes into the second half, Tate picked Cole’s pocket at the top of the key and raced to a fast-break layup. On the next possession, he grabbed an offensive board and was hacked on the put-back before completing the three-point-play. Much of the Buckeyes’ energy on the game came directly from Tate.
With 11:46 left in the game, N.C. Central senior guard Dajuan Graf picked up his fifth foul, exiting the game with 10 points and three boards. On the next possession, Loving picked up his first bucket of the game, a three-pointer to push the OSU advantage to 45-39.
The Buckeyes continued to keep the Eagles at arms length for most of the second period, but were never able to put them away. With under 4:30 left in regulation N.C. Central guard Ron Trapps hit a three to make it a two-possession game at 61-55 in favor of the Buckeyes, but they would never be able to cut the deficit closer than that.
The Buckeyes will be back in action against Providence on Thursday night from the Schottenstein Center. The game will tip-off at 7:00pm EST and will air on the Big Ten Network.
3 things we learned:
1. Micah Potter can shoot. After going scoreless on two shots in his first collegiate game, Potter surprised Buckeye fans by hitting his first three shots, all from behind the arc. He proved that he was more than just a finesse big by being an active part of the offense competing on the glass and setting solid screens.
Potter finished the game with 13 points on 5-7 shooting, and three rebounds.
2. Ohio State is still not very good at free-throws. After shooting 14-21 (66.6%) from the stripe against Navy, the Buckeyes looked even worse against NC State, shooting 11 for 23 (47.8%).
Last year, OSU shot 68.4% from the line, which ranked 236 out of 351 Division I teams. With Chris Jent brought in to work on the team’s shooting, that number should improve as the season progresses, but if the offense is going to be as stagnant as it has been early this season, free-throws could prove to be extremely important in close conference games.
3. Jae-Sean Tate was OSU’s most reliable producer. With Loving shooting 1-6, Keita Bates-Diop 3-7, and JaQuan Lyle 2-6, Tate and Potter provided most of the team’s offense. All eight of the junior forward’s baskets came in the paint, shooting 8-12 overall.
Despite four freshman transferring, Ohio State returned its top six scorers, however, in the home opener, most of them seemed content to wait for the ball to find them in a scoring opportunity. Tate (and to a lesser degree Potter) was the exception for most of the game. If Ohio State is going to bounce back from a disappointing 2015-2016 season, the will need to have better efforts from across the roster.