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Ohio State falls to No. 5 North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic, 86-72

The Tar Heels’ sharp-shooting was too much for the foul-prone Buckeyes to overcome.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at North Carolina Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Following a shocking home loss to Wofford on Wednesday, the North Carolina Tar Heels (11-2) rebounded against Ohio State (10-4, 2-0) in the CBS Sports Classic in New Orleans, knocking off the Buckeyes 86-72 on Saturday.

In the early going of the game, both teams seemed to be able to get into their offensive sets, but the defenses made scoring difficult. The Buckeyes D got them on the board as Musa Jallow took the steal and ran the floor only to leave the ball for a streaking C.J. Jackson who laid it in.

However, at the first media timeout, with the score tied at five, the Bucks already found themselves at a significant disadvantage, as their top-scorer Keita Bates-Diop was forced to sit having picked up two early fouls of the ticky-tack variety.

In his stead, freshman Kyle Young entered the game. With KBD on the bench, Jackson picked up the scoring slack. In addition to his fast-break layup, the junior guard hit three early three-pointers to score all of OSU’s first 11 points.

The Tar Heels kept pace with Jackson, hitting three triples of their own to take a two-point lead, 13-11, by the time that the under-12 timeout rolled around.

Back from the break, Bates-Diop returned to the game, and he finally got on the board with a turn-around jumper from the left block to notch the first OSU points of the game from someone other than Jackson. On the next possession, the junior forward called for the ball down low, and then turned and attacked the rim with a left-hand layup to tie the score at 15.

After a layup by Theo Pinson, OSU grad transfer Andrew Dakich took a charge from UNC’s Joel Berry II, and Bates-Diop hit another layup and, after a timeout, completed the old-fashioned three-point play. After the made free-throw, head coach Chris Holtmann subbed out his best player in order to save him from picking up a third first-half foul. He would sit for the rest of the first half.

With KBD on the bench, Jae’Sean Tate finally got on the scoring sheet after stealing the ball from Jalek Felton and laying it in. Dakich hit a blow-by lay up on the next possession for the Buckeyes, then found Tate on the next trip. Tate was fouled going up, and hit one of his two free-throws.

The offense was picking up for both teams, but especially the Heels, as the clock got down to around 5:00 left in the half, as Felton and Kenny Williams hit back-to-back threes for the Heels to give UNC a 29-23 lead. In between the triples, Tate was called for an offensive foul, which sent him to the bench with two of his own.

The momentum continued to swing towards the defending champs as Jallow went for a monstrous, reverse dunk, only to have the ball sail out of his hands as he was attempting to throw it down. Felton grabbed the rebound and went the other way, finding Garrison Brooks who laid it in, giving North Carolina an eight-point lead, 31-23, with just under four minutes remaining in the half.

With UNC on an 8-0 run, Jackson was fouled attempting a fast-break layup. The foul was the second on Berry, and Jackson hit both free-throws. Seconds later, Jackson stole it from Berry bringing the ball up, and laid it in going the other way.

The Buckeyes had gone on a 6-0 run, only to have the Berry and Cameron Johnson hit back-to-back three-pointers for the Heels, getting their lead to double-digits for the first time, 37-27.

One thing that regularly prevented the Buckeyes from keeping pace with UNC was poor shot selection. After another Jackson steal, Kam Williams took an ill-advised deep jumper despite having a two-on-one man advantage. Also, Andre Wesson took a deep three early in a shot clock that went wanting.

With 4.7 seconds left in the half, Kaleb Wesson was called for a foul underneath following a suspect traveling no-call. The whistle, or lack there of, frustrated Holtmann who was called for a technical foul of his own. Berry hit one of his two technical free-throws, and then Sterling Manley connected on one of his two attempts from the Wesson foul. After the first 20 minutes, the Tar Heels led 41-27.

The story of the half for the Buckeyes was found in the foul column on the score sheet. Three starters (Bates-Diop, Tate, Jallow) had two fouls in the first 20 minutes, and Bates-Diop, who averages 31.4 minutes per game, only saw eight minutes of action in the first half.

Jackson led all scorers with 15, but 11 of those came in the first few minutes of the game. KBD was the only other Buckeye with multiple baskets. Meanwhile, UNC was finding scoring from multiple sources. In just his second game of the season following an injury, Pittsburgh graduate transfer Johnson was the only Heel in double figures with 10. However, Felton had nine, and Pinson and Berry had seven apiece.

The scoring disparity was borne out of the poor shooting from the Buckeyes. Shooting just 38.5 percent from the floor (10-26), the Buckeyes had also only hit three of eight attempts from behind the arc, a place where they had been excelling in their recent six-game win streak.

The Heels, however, had connected on nine of 16 three-point attempts (56.3%), and were 14-for-31 overall (45.2%).

With the second half under way, Bates-Diop got the first four points on a pair of free-throws and a floater in the lane. Following the third foul for Berry, Jackson hit one of two free-throws to get the UNC lead back in single digits at 41-32. However, on the next possession, Berry hit the Heels’ 10th three-pointer of the game to get the lead back to 12.

On the subsequent OSU possession, Jackson found Kaleb Wesson in the lane, who displayed great hands in catching it up by his head and laying it in. The bucket was the younger Wesson’s first points of the game.

After UNC extended the lead back to 12 at 48-36, Wesson hit a lumbering lay up, but couldn’t complete the “and-one,” so the lead remained at 10. Shortly thereafter, the freshman deflected an entry pass and dove to the floor to generate a jump ball.

Even though the possession stayed with the Heels, the Buckeyes had a pair of steals in the next few possessions, leading to a Jallow tie-up with the arrow pointing in the Buckeyes’ direction.

Even though he nearly threw the ball away at the top of the key, Micah Potter was the recipient of a Tate pass after a slip screen into the lane to get his first bucket of the contest. On the next UNC possession, Jackson forced an over-and-back, then hit a blow-by layup.

The Buckeye defense was beginning to flex its muscles as they forced turnovers on five of six UNC possessions, allowing OSU to get the game back to a nine-point lead for the Heels at 51-42.

However, after a Berry layup moved the lead back to 11, the Tar Heels got two offensive rebounds from Brooks on the same possession, which led to another Berry basket. Bates-Diop picked up his third foul on the bucket, and Berry converted on the free-throw attempt.

Tate hit back-to-back buckets; first on an offensive put-back, and then on a floater in the lane; to cut the deficit to 56-46. However, following an Andre Wesson foul, Felton hit UNC’s 12th three-pointer of the game.

Despite numerous mini-spurts, the Buckeyes couldn’t get the UNC lead below nine points. Every time they would seem to be on a run, the Heels would hit a three pointer to quell it.

Again, with seven minutes remaining, OSU got the lead to 10 with a pair of Kaleb Wesson free-throws, but Johnson and Pinson each hit a pair of their own to push the lead to 14 again.

Then, Luke Maye drew three Buckeye defenders in the lane and found Pinson who was streaking toward the basket who threw down a powerful dunk.

Aside from their poor three-point shooting, the Buckeyes played well. But, early foul trouble and incredible UNC shooting from deep kept the game out of reach for most of the game, especially the second half. With Bates-Diop on the bench for much of the first period, all of UNC’s inside defensive attention focused on Kaleb Wesson, which rendered him ineffective in the first 20 minutes.

For Ohio State to be competitive with the better opponents on their schedule, they will need all of their talent to be in the floor as much as possible. Holtmann does not have the benefit of a deep, talented bench at this point in his OSU tenure. So, when you take someone like KBD or Tate off of the floor for a considerable amount of time, it impacts the effectiveness of the rest of the team.

Despite being down by 15 with 2:15 left, the Buckeyes showed no signs of quitting. Bates-Diop hit a pair of impressive shots in the lane as well as a three-pointer, and the Buckeye pressure forced a turnover, cutting the UNC lead to 78-69 with 1:10 left.

Bates-Diop hit 13-consecutive points for the Buckeyes in the late going of the game, but it wasn’t enough; as had been the case for most of the second half, they could never get it closer than nine. Six of KBD’s 13 in the run were on three-pointers. The team had only hit three other triples in the game.

Despite playing only eight minutes in the first half, Bates-Diop ended up leading all scorers with 26. He added five rebounds as well. Jackson chipped in with 19, and Kaleb Wesson contributed 12 second-half points. However, other than Tate’s nine points, no other Buckeyes made significant scoring contributions, as Dakich (4) and Potter (2) were the only other Buckeyes to score.

Conversely, Pinson and Berry each had 19 for UNC while Johnson (14), Felton (12), and Maye (9) led the balanced attack that saw four other Heels get into the scoring column.

The difference was simply in North Carolina’s shooting from distance. While they barely edged the Buckeyes in total shooting percentage (45.6 to 44.1), they were dominant from deep, hitting 13 of their 25 attempts (52%). OSU was 5-16 from behind the arc (31.3%).

The Ohio State Buckeyes will take the next week off before wrapping up their non-conference schedule against the Miami (OH) Redhawks next Sat. Dec. 30 at 12:00 p.m. ET from Value City Arena. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.