The Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team is back in action Wednesdy night against the Merrimack Warriors.
The Buckeyes (1-1) are coming off a loss to No. 13 Texas A&M at home on Friday night, 73-66. Ohio State defeated Oakland in the season opener 79-73 to start the season last Monday.
It’s been an interesting 80 minutes of basketball for the Buckeyes thus far. They have looked solid at times and, at others, struggled to hit the deep ball and rebounding — particularly on the defensive end
Against Texas A&M, the Buckeyes were outrebounded 45-35 and allowed 16 offensive rebounds compared to their own 12. Henry Coleman recorded 20 points and 11 rebounds on 8-for-14 shooting in 36 minutes and was the main difference maker for the Aggies, making it difficult down low for both Zed Key and Felix Okpara.
Wade Taylor and Tyrese Radford make up possibly the best backcourt the Buckeyes will see all season, and they took the game over late, combining for 42 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.
Both teams struggled from behind the three-point line, with the Aggies shooting 3-for-18 and the Buckeyes shooting 4-for-19.
Ohio State looks to bounce back with two home games against inferior opponents as they prepare for the Emerald Coast Classic over Thanksgiving weekend, where they will play No. 24 Alabama and then either Oregon or Santa Clara.
Sophomore guard Bruce Thornton has been the Buckeye’s leading scorer to this point, averaging 20.5 points per game after scoring 17 against Oakland and 24 against Texas A&M. However, against the Aggies, Thornton was 8-for-20 and found himself in some situations where the ball stopped moving and was forced to try and create the offense for himself. Thornton added five assists and had no turnovers, which is incredibly impressive against a guard of Taylor’s caliber.
Roddy Gayle had another solid stat line, recording nine points, seven rebounds, and six assists. Although he struggled offensively, shooting just 4-for-12 from the field and 0-for-3 from three-point range.
Jamison Battle joined Thornton as the only other Buckeye in double-figures with 10 points, but he struggled with foul trouble through much of the second half and played just 23 minutes.
Zed Key finished with eight points and seven rebounds on 4-for-5 shooting from the field.
Merrimack is led by stellar sophomore guard Jordan Derkack, who is averaging 16.3 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game. However, Derkack is “questionable” for this game after injuring his left leg in Merrimack’s win over Maine this past weekend.
The Warriors made national headlines last season as they won the Northeast Conference, but could not go to the NCAA tournament due to NCAA rules from transferring Division II to Division I. Because they could not participate, the NEC automatic bid went to Fairleigh Dickinson; the rest is history.
The Warriors lost a lot from last year’s team. Jordan Minor averaged 17.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game, but transferred to Virginia in the offseason. Ziggy Reid averaged 14.2 points per game last year, and transferred to Youngstown State. Javon Bennett averaged 9.6 points per game and transferred to Dayton.
Now, the Warriors have ushered in a new era and are led by Derkack, Adam Clark, Samba Diallo, and Devon Savage. They are 2-1 with a 12-point loss to Vermont to start the season but wins over Worcester State and Maine.
The Buckeyes are coming into this one with a stale taste in their mouth after the loss to the Aggies, and the best way to get that out is to get off to a solid early start.
Ohio State is a much better team than the Warriors, but Merrimack runs a fairly unique defense and won their conference last season, so the chance for this one to be close at least early in the game is decent.
However, the Buckeyes are the better team, which will take over as the game progresses. This is a great game to work on the things that held them back against Oakland and Texas A&M, like securing rebounds and not allowing second-chance points, their on-ball defense, and knocking down shots from behind the arc.
This should be a comfortable home win for the Buckeyes; if it is not, we will allow the panic button to be placed on the table, within arm’s reach.
On the bright side for fans, this is the first game that is not on streaming. While the Oakland game was on Big Ten Network Plus and the Texas A&M game was on Peacock, this one is on the good ole Big Ten Network.
ESPN BPI: Ohio State 91.1%
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network