Ohio State had a big day over Wisconsin Saturday--both on the field and the hardcourt. The Buckeyes handed the Badgers their worst loss ever on the road at the Kohl Center, an 83-58 victory, to open their Big Ten slate. It was an important bounce back for Ohio State, which had dropped its last two games against Butler and Clemson after blowing second-half leads, and a big win as they move to 1-0 in conference play. Now, Holtmann’s squad heads home to Columbus to face the Michigan Wolverines in their second Big Ten game of the season.
The Big Ten season began early this year to account for the Big Ten Tournament in Madison Square Garden, which is scheduled a week earlier than normal. After tonight, Ohio State has five nonconference matchups remaining, including one with No. 13 North Carolina, before getting back into Big Ten play. Ohio State has struggled in conference play recently, going 7-11 last year. The Buckeyes last won the Big Ten Tournament in 2013, and earned at least a share of the regular season title the previous two seasons. Last season, in perhaps the most embarrassing exit possible, Rutgers knocked Ohio State out in the play-in round of the conference tournament.
There is a lot to improve on in conference play this year, and Chris Holtmann has his team off to a great start. Against Wisconsin, freshman forward Kaleb Wesson led the team in scoring with 19 points, while junior forward Keita Bates-Diop added yet another double-double on the young season. Senior Jae’Sean Tate moved over to point guard as Holtmann shook up the starting lineup once again with excellent results. Ohio State had their best shooting day of the season, while holding Wisconsin under 40 percent from the field.
Michigan, meanwhile, opened up conference play with a 14-point win over Indiana Saturday. Previously, they had lost to North Carolina 86-71 n the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Wolverines are averaging just under 77 points per game on their way to a 7-2 record. The Wolverines lost their top two scorers of last season in Derek Walton, Jr. and Zach Irvin, but return three of last year’s starters in junior forward Moritz Wagner, senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and senior guard Duncan Robinson. Wagner has already proven to be a leader on the team early in this season, averaging just under 16 points per game to lead the team.
Head coach John Beilein took the helm of the Wolverines in 2007, and has amassed a 222-137 record in the decade since. He’s also had recent success in the conference. After finishing fifth in the regular season conference standings last year, Michigan won the Big Ten Tournament and earned a berth in the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament.
Ohio State leads the all-time series with their rival 96-76, with the Buckeyes winning three of their last four, including their most recent matchup last season which Ohio State won 70-66. The Buckeyes own an 803-713 record all time against the Big Ten.
Numbers to know
The Buckeyes were prolific shooters Saturday against Wisconsin, especially in the first half. The team connected on nearly 80 percent of their shots from the field in the first 20 minutes and finished the entire game shooting 66 percent. Even more impressive is that the Buckeyes shot 54 percent from behind the arc. Junior point guard C.J. Jackson, coming off the bench, led the long-range effort, hitting three of the Buckeyes’ seven shots from three-point range--all in the first half. Tate was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field in the first half, finishing the game hitting seven of his eight total shots.
Michigan has averaged just nine turnovers per game on their way to the fourth-best assist-to-turnover ratio in the country. That mark is way better than Ohio State’s ratio, which is under one. The Buckeyes have had serious issues protecting the ball this season. In games like Saturday’s versus Wisconsin, the team made up for it with outstanding shooting. In other matchups, turnovers prove to be a killer. They will need to be especially cognizant of protecting the ball against a team which so rarely coughs it up on their own.
Per the usual, Michigan is a defensive powerhouse on the floor, allowing just 62.4 points per game. That mark is good for second in the Big Ten and 29th in the NCAA. While the Wolverines allow their opponents to shoot 43.5 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from three-point range, middle-of-the-road marks nationally, their slow pace of play keeps games relatively low-scoring in nature. In fact, they are 341st in the country in possessions per game, averaging just 66.8.
Cast of characters
If you haven’t heard, the redshirt junior is the lifeblood of Ohio State basketball at the moment. Bates-Diop is averaging 17.3 points per game--one of four Buckeyes averaging double-digit scoring--and 10 rebounds per game. He has also recorded a double-double in all but three games this season. Against Wisconsin, Bates-Diop recorded a team-high 11 rebounds to go along with 17 points. He’s shooting 51 percent from the field, including 43.5 percent from three-point range. The forward is in his fourth year with the program and has proven to be a powerhouse under Chris Holtmann’s system. He has been the most consistent player on the court this season for the Buckeyes, and his leadership and experience will be needed especially as Ohio State moves into conference play.
The freshman guard from Bloomington (IN) started in the Buckeyes’ last outing Saturday and, though only scoring two points on the day, still made a positive impact on the court, adding three assists and four rebounds. On the season, Jallow has not been a prolific scorer--he is averaging just 5.3 points per game--to go along with three rebounds per outing. However, the 17-year old has demonstrated a lot of potential while playing with an experienced Ohio State team and can continue to improve throughout the season. He will certainly make some mistakes, especially as we are still early in the season, but he has already brought energy to the court and to his squad.
The 6-foot-11 forward is living up to the preseason hype, where he was named to the Preseason All-Big Ten team and to the Wooden Award watch list. The junior from Berlin, Germany leads his team in scoring and rebounding with 15.6 points and 8.4 rebounds, respectively, as one of three returning starters from last season’s squad. He had 13 points in Michigan’s last outing versus Indiana in 28 minutes on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. Ohio State will need to rely on the 6-foot-9 Kaleb Wesson to defend Wagner.
The guard replaced Charles Matthews, who had been Michigan’s leading scorer heading into the matchup, just 14 seconds into the Wolverines’ matchup with Indiana Saturday. Poole finished the outing with a team-high 19 points and demonstrates the confidence that John Beilein has in his bench players. Even more impressive, the freshman had five three-point shots in his best scoring game of the season, with 11 of his points coming in the first half. After staying on the bench for the Wolverines first few games of the year, Poole has seen more playing time in the past couple of weeks, and he has scored in double figures in three of his last five games.
How to watch
Game time: 6:30 p.m. EST
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM
Streaming: FOX Sports GO