In many ways, the Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team has already exceeded expectations this season, defeating two tournament teams from the 2017-18 season despite a severely decimated roster, and doing so on the road. Most recently, the Buckeyes overcame Creighton in Omaha, Neb. as part of the 2018 Gavitt Tipoff Games. Now, Chris Holtmann’s team returns home to face South Carolina State today at 2 p.m. ET in a game broadcast on BTN Plus.
Ohio State almost blew a late lead to Doug McDermott’s Creighton team Thursday night. Almost.
The Buckeyes were up by a dozen at the end of the first, but found themselves down by as many as four in the second 20 minutes. Senior guard C.J. Jackson came up strong at the end, picking up his only two field goals when the Buckeyes needed them most, despite not scoring a single point until well into the second half. Fortunately for Jackson, he was anchored by two newcomers who held things down for the Buckeyes as they rallied to overcome the Bluejays.
Freshman guard Duane Washington Jr. has been impressive through his first three games as a Buckeye, scoring 12 points off of the bench against Creighton on Thursday. His 3-of-4 shooting from distance might also be an indication that the young guard could help to replace some of the three-point shooting that the Buckeyes lost following last season. Meanwhile, graduate transfer guard Keyshawn Woods, who joined the program in May from Wake Forest, added a team-high 19, also coming off the bench. After scoring less than 10 in each of his first two outings this season, Woods seemed to connect from three-point range as well, hitting on 60 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
As a team, the Buckeyes shot greater than 47 percent from the field, including 47.6 percent from three-point range. In fact, through three games, Ohio State is among the best three-point shooting teams in the nation. They’ve also been sharing the ball, recording 15 assists Thursday, though they did commit 13 turnovers (at least the assist-to-turnover ratio is greater than one…).
Also impressive is the fact that in three games, Ohio State has had three different leading scorers. Heading into this season, the Buckeyes faced the constant question of who would replace Keita Bates-Diop, who led his team in scoring in most of the Buckeyes’ outings last season. The answer, it would seem, is the whole roster, as Ohio State adjusts to winning without a true go-to player on the court. Against Cincinnati, sophomore Kaleb Wesson had 15 points. Versus Purdue Fort Wayne, it was Jackson who stepped up with 25. And Woods showed what he could do with his double-digit total last week. Meanwhile, Washington has proven an impressive scorer himself off of the bench.
South Carolina State, meanwhile, is sitting at 1-3 on the season, the Bulldogs’ only win coming in their season opener over Brevard College 99-51. Since then, South Carolina State has fallen to Tulsa by 22, Charleston Southern by 17 and, this past week, Cleveland State — whom Ohio State is scheduled to play in St. John Arena on Friday — by 15.
Most recently, the Bulldog’s Janai Raynor Powell, a senior guard, led all players for South Carolina State with 23 points against the Vikings, connecting on 9-of-11 shots from the field. He was joined by fellow guards Damni Applewhite and Rayshawn Neal, both of whom had 14 against Cleveland State.
However, the Bulldogs had just seven points off of the bench, and while South Carolina State shot nearly 45 percent from the field, they were held under 27 percent from range. The Bulldogs had just six assists and 12 turnovers versus the Vikings.
The Bulldogs return three starters from last season, including Raynor Powell, Applewhite and Ian Kinard. So far this season, Applewhite leads all players in scoring, recording 19 points per game. Junior forward Ozante Fields is averaging a team-high six rebounds per game, while Raynor Powell has had nearly three assists per game.
Murray Garvin has been at the helm of South Carolina State since 2013, when he was promoted to head coach after three seasons as an assistant for the Bulldogs. Garvin holds a 62-107 overall record at South Carolina State. The team finished last season with a 10-22 overall record, and was 10th in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
ESPN BPI: Ohio State 98.1%
Ohio State is 17-0 against teams from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. By most standards, that perfect record does not look like it will fall today. The Buckeyes’ defense has proven strong early in the season and, based on a 46-point win over Purdue Fort Wayne last week, capable of beating those that they are expected to beat.
The Buckeyes are averaging 80 points per game, but that mark is aided by the 107 put up against the Mastodons. And beyond scoring 99 against Brevard College, the Bulldogs haven’t gotten more than 72 points in any of their losses.
While the Bulldogs have certainly closed the margin of defeat in their three losses, they have yet to play a team from a major conference, or any team in the KenPom top-100 (OSU is currently 30th).
Ohio State, meanwhile, already has wins over two top-50 teams. As the Buckeyes return home, there is more energy around the program as they have already exceeded many early season expectations.