The Big Ten slate, starting with Iowa, No. 2 Michigan State and Maryland, is looming large for the Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team in the new year. Before they get there, however, the Buckeyes have one final non-conference test as they face the Miami RedHawks at Value City Arena today.
The Buckeyes are 10-4 on the season, their recent five-game win streak having been snapped by No. 5 North Carolina last Saturday. Junior forward Keita Bates-Diop once again led the Buckeyes in scoring with 26 points on the night, but got into foul trouble early and was benched for much of the first half. Junior guard C.J. Jackson had 19 points of his own on 6-of-13 shooting.
Ohio State has already played two early games--both wins versus Wisconsin and Michigan--in their conference slate in order to accomodate an earlier Big Ten Tournament. This schedule has been something of an anomaly, but positions the Buckeyes with two early wins before the grind begins in earnest in January. Now, after facing a top-five opponent, Ohio State will have a bit of a letdown as they face Miami before facing Iowa next week.
Ohio State is 233-76 all-time against fellow teams from Ohio, a state which is home to 13 NCAA Division I schools. The Buckeyes are 6-2 all-time against Miami, and 46-10 against schools from the MAC. The last time these two teams squared off was in 2014, when the Buckeyes pulled away from the RedHawks with a 93-55 win in Columbus.
The RedHawks were picked to finish last in the conference in the MAC preseason coaches poll, but Miami has started at a respectable 7-5 on the season under first-year head coach Jack Owens. Miami is the first head coaching position for Owens, who had previously held assistant and associate roles at Eastern Illinois, Southern Illinois and, most recently, Purdue.
Like Ohio State, Miami will also be moving into its conference slate following this matchup. In their last game, the RedHawks fell to DePaul 83-66 on the road, snapping a two-game winning streak. Miami is averaging 74 points per game on 46 percent shooting this season.
Miami lost a lot of pieces from last year’s 11-21 team, including twins Michael and Marcus Weathers, who were first and third on the team in scoring, respectively. Senior forward Logan McLane, who averaged 11.3 points per game last season, good for second on the team, returns this season averaging 10.3 points per game. Newcomers, like true freshmen Nike Sibande and Jalen Adaway, have made an immediate impact on the court for the RedHawks through 12 games.
Numbers to know
The number of minutes Keita Bates-Diop played in the first half versus the Tar Heels after getting into foul trouble early. With Bates-Diop on the bench, the Tar Heels broke through to their first double-digit lead of the night last week. Such foul trouble is rare. In fact, it was the first time this season that Bates-Diop reached even four fouls, averaging under two per game. Still, fouls have proven to be problematic for others on the team, namely Jae’Sean Tate, who himself fouled out against UNC. While the rest of the team should be able to hold their own on the court, especially against Miami, this type of performance shows how necessary Bates-Diop is in the big moments the Buckeyes will face in conference play.
Ohio State is seriously struggling with protecting the basketball, giving up 14 turnovers per game. Point guards C.J. Jackson and Jae’Sean Tate, naturally, are the worst offenders, giving up almost three turnovers each per game, but even Bates-Diop, who has been relatively reliable in that area this season, coughed up four turnovers against North Carolina last week. This area is one which has been a problem for several years now and is one of Chris Holtmann’s pet peeves He benched Jackson after Ohio State’s loss to Clemson in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, when Jackson committed five of the Buckeyes’ 14 turnovers. While the Buckeyes have been able to make up for turnovers with strong offensive performance against inferior opponents, they will need to clean it up as they face tougher competition in-conference.
The number of points off the bench Ohio State had against North Carolina. There is nothing wrong with relying on starters, especially when four of them are averaging double-digits on the season, but the Buckeyes need some sort of backup should their starters get into foul trouble or become injured. The bench has proven more than capable of scoring, especially Kam Williams who has been a consistent scorer off the bench, and six non-starters had a collective 44 points against the Citadel. While the Buckeyes were up big, giving a chance for backups to see more time, those bench players need to be able to step up even in close games, as was demonstrated during Bates-Diop’s absence in the first half versus the Tar Heels.
Cast of characters
The forward from Pickerington is one of just two seniors on the team, along with Kam Williams, and is the only starter (Andrew Dakich, a graduate transfer from Michigan, is in his sole year of eligibility with the Buckeyes). As Tate’s offensive production goes, so the rest of the team goes. The senior was held under 10 points per game in three of the team’s four losses, including nine points against North Carolina. Averaging 12.6 points on the season, Tate is third on the team in scoring, and second in assists with 3.1 per game. Tate has brought a lot of energy to the team this season, but needs to be smart with the ball to avoid issues with turnovers which have plagued him at points this year.
The junior forward has been the most consistent player on the court this season for Chris Holtmann. He is third in the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 18.7 points per game, and tied for second in rebounding, pulling down 8.6 boards per game. Unlike Tate, Bates-Diop has been consistent for Ohio State win or lose, scoring 26 points in 27 minutes against North Carolina. In fact, he has only been held under double-digit scoring in one game this season (Gonzaga). An all-around player, Bates-Diop is shooting greater than 53 percent from the field, including 42 percent from three-point range, and 84 percent on free throws. Chris Holtmann and company will continue to rely on Bates-Diop for his consistent offensive production.
While not recognized with any accolades in the preseason, the junior guard has been making waves nationally, ranking in the top-10 nationally in both assists and steals. His 7.9 assists per game is good for fourth in the NCAA, and he had 14 assists in a single game versus Midway in November. He also boasts an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.32, which is far better than any player for Ohio State at the moment. Ringo’s scoring isn’t off the charts, averaging under nine points per game, but he had 15 points in the RedHawks’ last outing against DePaul, hitting 8-of-12 field goal attempts on the night.
The redshirt junior guard from Minnesota has been with the program since 2015 after transferring from the Citadel, and has been a force coming off the bench this season. In fact, he led the RedHawks in scoring against Fort Wayne earlier this month, scoring 22 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the field, with all 13 shots coming from three-point range. Overall, Wright is averaging 8.8 points per game. He is Miami’s best outside threat, hitting nearly 42 percent of his shots from behind the arc, and has proven outstanding at protecting the ball, coughing up just 0.5 turnovers per game.
How to watch
Game time: 12 p.m. EST
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM