While the end result was not what the Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team was hoping for, there is no denying that the team has officially been battle-tested following a narrow, two-point loss to sixth-ranked Virginia Wednesday in just their second road test of the season.
The first loss of the season, however, was almost as good as a win for a team that spent most of last season searching for consistency from a young and unreliable squad. Now, at 6-1, the Buckeyes have learned what it means to hang with one of the best teams in the country--something that can only help them as they prepare for conference play.
Ohio State led Virginia for most of the game and by as many as 16 points in the first half, relinquishing the lead only on a Cavaliers’ field goal with 1:58 left in the second half. Virginia, who was the top scoring defense in the NCAA heading into the game, allowed 61 points against Ohio State--the most allowed by any opponent in the short season. While it was in many ways a sloppy performance for Virginia, who shot just 37.5 percent from the floor, their worst shooting of the season, it was an excellent test for the Buckeyes as they prepare for the upcoming Big Ten season.
Now, however, the Buckeyes return home to face the 2-4 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights. Last season, the Knights won the Northeast Conference with a win over Wagner in the conference championship, but lost in a play-in game to Florida Gulf Coast in the NCAA Tournament. Even with two wins under their belt this season, though, the Knights are just No, 294 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. Plagued by injuries to key players early in the season, including junior forward Earl Potts Jr., the Knights are on a two-game losing streak. Potts was second on the team in scoring last season and led the Knights in rebounds, but has yet to play in a game this year.
If the Buckeyes play anywhere near the level they did against Virginia, they should be able to take care of business tonight.
Numbers to know
While the Buckeyes had seemed to be improving in their abysmal number of turnovers, they recorded a season-high 20 versus Virginia--including eight from sophomore point guard JaQuan Lyle, who is actually second on the team in turnovers behind senior forward Marc Loving. When facing such tough competition, it was critical for Ohio State to maintain control of the ball, and they will need to get this under control before the start of conference play next month.
While everyone was talking about Virginia’s top-ranked scoring defense, Ohio State has quietly made its way to No. 17 in the NCAA in the same category, allowing just 59.4 points per game. The only time the Buckeyes have allowed 70 points on the season was against Marshall, when Ohio State recorded a 41-point win over the Thundering Herd. While certainly not stifling on Virginia’s level, the Buckeyes have found a defensive identity which kept the game close against the Cavaliers.
One statistic that, unfortunately, has remained consistent from last season for Ohio State is deplorable free throw shooting. The Buckeyes have actually been shooting worse than last year from the line, hitting a woeful 61.8 percent, which is good for 319th in the NCAA. The worst offender on the squad is junior forward Jae’Sean Tate, who is shooting under 50 percent on the season. While it seems unlikely that the game will come down to missed free throws, the Buckeyes need to clean this area up as they prepare for tougher competition later in the season.
Cast of characters
The senior forward played a team-high 39 minutes, but just seven points to show for it against Virginia. Last week, he dropped 20 points on Marshall and 19 against Jackson State after a three-game skid in which he only scored 17 points combined. Loving leads the team in turnovers with nearly three per game, and has run into foul trouble early in games this season. Against Fairleigh Dickinson, Loving needs to get back his swagger on offense (he was just 3-for-8 on field goals) and clean up his turnovers. He also needs to start playing with the same level of energy as the rest of his team.
The junior college transfer played significant minutes off the bench early in the season as JaQuan Lyle struggled against Navy and North Carolina Central. Even as Lyle has found a rhythm, Jackson has been getting in the game and making an impact on the court, most recently hitting three, three-pointers against Virginia for his nine points on the night. He should have an opportunity for significant minutes against Fairleigh Dickinson to give him more experience for later in the season. While Lyle is the go-to point guard for Ohio State, Jackson provides a solid compliment, should Lyle have an off day on the court.
The junior guard was named pre-season first-team all-NEC earlier this year. He has been a three-year starter for the Knights and has led the team in scoring the past two seasons. Averaging 19.7 points per game, Anderson has been shooting nearly 54 percent from the field. He is also the Knights’ most consistent three-point shooter, shooting 46 percent on a team that averages 33 percent from behind the arc.
After missing three games due to injury, O’Garro returned to the starting lineup for Fairleigh Dickinson against Army Wednesday. The senior forward leads the Knights in rebounds and blocks. The Monmouth transfer has played for Fairleigh Dickinson the last two seasons, but missed much of last season due to injury. While he is not a big scorer, averaging just 5.3 points per game, he has been the unequivocal leader on defense for the Knights. Last year, Fairleigh Dickinson allowed a whopping 16.4 points less per hundred possessions with O’Garro on the court than off.
How to watch
Game time: 4:30 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 FM
TV: Not on television
Streaming: BTN Plus