Four games into the season, the Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team finally unleashed a throttling of its non-conference opponent, having defeated the Western Carolina Catamounts by 28 points Monday night. Combined with a close-but-still-decisive win over Providence last week, the Buckeyes have finally seemed to have found a spark of offense that they seemed to lack for the entirety of last season.
Led by JaQuan Lyle and Jae’Sean Tate, the Buckeyes destroyed perhaps their worst statistical opponent of the season. Ohio State’s strong defensive play made up in many ways for poor shooting (Ohio State shot just under 42 percent from the floor), with the Buckeyes recorded 11 steals on the night, including eight in the first half alone. With Ohio State out-rebounding Western Carolina 44-33, even the 14 turnovers by the Buckeyes did not cause too much trouble in the matchup.
Ohio State now moves on to face Jackson State, who is sitting at 1-3 on the season, with losses to North Carolina Central, whom Ohio State defeated in their second game of the season, and Marshall, who is Ohio State’s next scheduled opponent Friday. This season, the Tigers have been one of the worst shooting teams in the NCAA, averaging 39.3 percent on field goals.
Monday was no exception for Jackson State. The Tigers had just 26 second half points in their loss to Marshall earlier in the week. With only eight points off the bench, Jackson State leaned heavily on guards Paris Collins and Edric Dennis, who combined for 41 of the team’s 61 points. The Tigers shot just 33.9 percent on the night, and under 29 percent from behind the arc. They also missed six of their 19 free throw attempts and committed 13 turnovers in the game.
Head coach Wayne Brent is in his fourth season with Jackson State, his first collegiate head coaching job. Previously an assistant at Ole Miss, Brent was part of the Rebels squad that went to the Sweet Sixteen in 2001. After going 11-20 and 11-21 in his first two seasons with the Tigers, Brent coached Jackson State to a breakout season last year with a 20-16 record--good enough for third place in the SWAC and the team’s first 20-win season since 2007. They just missed out on an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after losing by a point in the finals of the SWAC Tournament, but won their first postseason game since 1993 with a win over Sam Houston State in the CollegeInsiders.com Tournament.
Numbers to know
Marc Loving—the only senior on the Ohio State roster—has made just nine field goals in four games played. Despite averaging 26.5 minutes per game, Loving has not been able to join the rest of his team as they find themselves on offense. Of course, in Loving’s case, he is not contributing much on defense either, with a dozen fouls on the season, four of which came by midway through the second half against Western Carolina.
Jackson State’s ranking, according to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. While it is not as bad as Western Carolina’s at 322, it is indicative of the dichotomy of the Buckeyes’ out of conference schedule which includes both the likes of Youngstown State (253) and North Carolina Central (246), as well as Virginia (4) and UCLA (23). There are certainly more opponents ranked lower than the top-150 than higher on the out of conference slate, so the Buckeyes cannot afford to slip up the way they did last year against UT-Arlington and Louisiana Tech.
The rating teammate Kam Williams gave JaQuan Lyle’s dunk against Western Carolina Monday. Lyle’s athleticism has improved immensely since the end of last season—as exemplified by his huge dunk in the first half which put his team up 11. After dropping more than 10 pounds in the offseason, Lyle has shown improved performance on the court. He has also strung together two strong performances in a row against Providence and Western Carolina, perhaps showing that he has developed consistency which was lacking at times last season.
Cast of characters
The junior center has yet to start a game this season for the Buckeyes, but he has still made his impact known on the court coming in behind true freshman Micah Potter. Scoring double-digits in all but one game, Thompson has racked up the highest field goal percentage on the team, shooting 68.2 percent from the field. And besides missing two free throws against Navy, he is perfect from the line on the season. Perhaps with the exception of Kam Williams, who started Monday, Thompson remains Ohio State’s strongest player off the bench.
All dunks aside, Lyle has put together two solid performances in the last week for the Buckeyes, and seems to be taking his role as point guard and de facto on-court leader very seriously. After starting the season shooting just 33 percent from the field (scoring only eight points total in two matchups), Lyle has stepped up and led the team in scoring against both Providence (21 points) and Western Carolina (17). His impact may be indicative of an early season trend: When Lyle has a good game, the Buckeyes have a good game.
The lone sophomore starter on the squad, the 6-foot-3 guard from Dallas is the Tigers’ leading scorer on the season, averaging 16.8 points per game and most recently dropping 20 in a losing effort against Marshall. After sitting the entirety of last season, Dennis has made an early impact on the Tigers’ roster, starting all four games and averaging a team-high 35 minutes per game. He also leads the team in assists, with 2.8 per game.
The senior forward has already broken out somewhat this season, leading his team in rebounds with 8.6 per game after averaging just 5.1 last year. Against Marshall, Middleton recorded a season-high 11 rebounds for the Tigers. Despite his prowess down low, however, Middleton has been limited in his scoring, and was held to zero points against Marshall.
How to watch
Game time: 7 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 FM