After opening the season with four-straight wins, the basketball Buckeyes faced the first real test of the Chris Holtmann era in the quarterfinals of the PK80 basketball tournament early Friday morning Columbus-time. In front of a predominantly Gonzaga crowd, Ohio State stuck with last year’s national runner-ups, the No. 19 Gonzaga Bulldogs, early, before the Zags capitalized on its athletic advantages to secure an easy 86-59 victory.
In the early going, the Buckeyes proved that they could hang with the Zags, as the teams went back-and-forth, exchanging the lead seven times in the first eight minutes of action. Sophomore forward Micah Potter did not play for the Buckeyes due to to an ankle injury. This allowed true-freshman Kaleb Wesson to get his first career start.
OSU’s freshman guard Musa Jallow got the scoring started with a three-pointer, and then after the teams had exchanged a pair of buckets, the 17-year-old took a C.J. Jackson bounce pass and slammed the ball home over 6-foot-10 Gonzaga forward Killian Tillie.
Three and a half minutes in, Jackson hit a three-pointer of his own, and the Buckeyes owned an 11-10 lead at the first timeout. The first possession after the break saw Jackson hit another three as time ran out on the shot clock. Tillie answered the next time down the floor for the Zags, sinking his first made triple of the year.
Just over six minutes into the game, senior forward Johnathan Williams laid the ball in to give the lead back to Gonzaga 15-14, only to have a pair of Kaleb Wesson free-throws put the Buckeyes back ahead.
However, a pair of back-to-back threes by Josh Perkins, the latter from way downtown, gave the Bulldogs the largest lead of the game for either team at 21-16 with 12:53 remaining in the first half.
The Buckeyes briefly retook the lead on a three from Kam Williams, which started off a run from behind the arc as Gonzaga’s Silas Melson, Jallow, and Bulldog Josh Perkins exchanged three-pointers on consecutive possessions.
Both teams shot the ball extremely well in the first 12 minutes of the game. Ohio State was 9-14 (64 percent) from the floor, while Gonzaga was 13-20 (65 percent). Despite the shot differential, the Buckeyes were able to stay in the game at the under-8:00 timeout thanks to their hot shooting from downtown, where they had gone 5-of-7.
With 7:49 left before halftime, the Bulldogs led 33-29.
Kaleb Wesson hit a pair of free throws after the timeout to cut the lead to two. The charity stripe was also a major advantage for OSU early on. They went 8-for-12 in the first 14 minutes of the half from the line, while Gonzaga was just 1-for-1.
At the 5:01 mark, Wesson was slow making a play on a loose ball and swiped Perkins across the forehead. Though the refs spent a few minutes looking at the replay, they determined that it was nothing more than a common foul, much to the displeasure of the de facto Bulldog home crowd.
A minute later, Gonzaga got the benefit of a call as a Keita Bates-Diop‘s bounce pass was picked off and the Zags turned it into a layup on the other end. However, the replay showed that the ball was actually kicked leading to the turnover.
The missed call notwithstanding, turnovers were a problem for the Buckeyes in the first half. While they only had four more turnovers than Gonzaga (9-5), the real problem was that OSU was outscored off of those turnovers 11-1 in the first half. Part and parcel to the turnover discrepancy was the fact that Gonzaga held a 7-0 fastbreak advantage over the Buckeyes at the half.
From there, the game’s break-neck scoring speed slowed down as Gonzaga began to extend their lead. Already up 39-31, Tillie hit one of two free throws to go up by nine. After another Buckeye miss, Gonzaga’s Jacob Larsen connected on a free throw to extend the lead to 10, then Perkins hit another deep three to put Gonzaga up 44-31 at the half.
The Zags went on an 11-0 run to close the first 20 minutes, and the Buckeyes’ last made field goal was Jackson’s jumper at the 9:06 mark. OSU missed its final nine attempts from the field of the half as the Bulldogs turned up the defensive pressure, and dominated inside.
While the Buckeyes started the game hot from the floor, their ice cold end of the half resulted in them shooting just 39 percent (9-23) during the first 20 minutes, while the Bulldogs were at 55 percent (17-31).
Bates-Diop was held to just two points in the first half, after being the Buckeyes’ leader in the first four games—but he did have a game-high eight rebounds in the first 20 minutes. Jae’Sean Tate only had three points in the opening period, but did need to receive medical attention for a cut above his eye.
The Buckeyes finally got a field goal as Bates-Diop took an inbounds pass and put it home at the 18:17 mark of the second half. Despite OSU finally getting back in the FG column, Gonzaga extended its lead early in the second half, thanks to eight-straight points by freshman Corey Kispert. Holtmann took a much-needed timeout at 17:07, after the Bulldogs took a 52-33 lead.
After the timeout, the Buckeyes looked intent on getting its veterans involved in the game. Tate connected on a layup and completed the old-fashioned three-point play, then after a missed Gonzaga three-point attempt, the senior hit a jumper to cut the lead to 52-38.
The play continued to be sloppy from there, as the teams combined for six turnovers and 37.5 percent shooting in the first eight minutes of the half. Tate was clearly the Buckeyes’ main offensive weapon in the second half, as he was able to get a putback to put the score at 58-42, but after a Larsen basket, Perkins hit another ridiculously deep three to give Gonzaga a 21-point advantage.
At the 8:32 mark, Jackson stole the ball on the perimeter, and turned it into a fastbreak layup to cut the Gonzaga lead to 66-48.
With Potter out for the game, the Buckeyes were down to just a single traditional big man in Kaleb Wesson, and the Bulldogs took advantage, outscoring the Buckeyes in the paint 36-22.
While the broadcasting crew was talking about socks with Bill Walton’s face on them, Kam Williams hit his second three of the game to bring the score to 68-51, but Johnathan Williams got another jumper in the lane to move the lead back to 19. After another Gonzaga miss, Kaleb Wesson tried to post up in the lane, but was whistled for his fifth foul of the game. The freshman fouled out with 10 points and four rebounds.
Johnathan Williams scored 10 straight points for Gonzaga as they extended the lead back to 76-55, and the Bulldogs kept the Buckeyes at bay from there.
Despite their hot start, the Buckeyes finished the game shooting just 35% from the field on 19 for 55 shooting. After starting the game 5-7 from behind the arc, the Buckeyes hit just one of their next 13 attempts as the game got away from them.
The Ohio State Buckeyes will be back on the court later on Friday at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT against Stanford.