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You’re Nuts: What does Ohio State men’s basketball need to clean up before UCLA?

The Bruins have basically been the inverse of Ohio State this year — rock-solid on defense but erratic offensively.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

One week ago, people were wondering, “Will the Ohio State Buckeyes ever lose again?” By people, I mean the two of us. Unfortunately for both of us, the Buckeyes’ winning streak came to an end a whole lot sooner than either of us expected with its 83-80 loss to Penn State last weekend.

Before they lost to a very bad team, we debated why Ohio State wasn’t ranked. At the time, they were sitting at 8-1, with one loss coming to a ranked Texas A&M team.

Hindsight is 20-20, and it’s easy to say, “that loss to Penn State shows the voters knew not to rank them.” But the fact is that that loss came after the poll was released and after the voters voted. Justin said the Buckeyes probably weren’t ranked because its best win is over a now-unranked Alabama team. Connor said they weren’t ranked yet because people may be skeptical of the team after being so horrible last year.

57% of the people agreed with Connor. The other 43% agreed with Justin.

After 130 weeks:

Connor- 62
Justin- 50
Other- 14

(There have been four ties)

With the CBS Sports Classic this weekend, we’re looking at Ohio State’s entire body of work and picking two things that need to be cleaned up a bit if the Buckeyes want to end 2023 on a high note. We’re not only looking at the Penn State game, but since it’s fresh on the mind, much of what we bring up here is from Ohio State’s recent play.

Today’s Question: What does Ohio State men’s basketball need to clean up before UCLA?

Connor: Prevent second-chance points

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, Ohio State blew an 18-point lead last weekend and that can’t ever happen again. Like, ever. But believe it or not, the Buckeyes did a lot of things right against Penn State, too.

They held the Nittany Lions to 29 points in the first half. They won the rebounding battle, 43-31. They hit 11 three-pointers, and shot over 40% from long range. They assisted on 21 of their 27 made baskets, and scored 80 points for the sixth consecutive game.

What really killed the Buckeyes last weekend was their inability to control the defensive glass. Penn State shot 20-for-33 in the second half, but was able to rebound 11 of its 13 misses. That ultimately led to 14 second-chance points for the Nittany Lions, in a game Penn State won by just three points.

What if Ohio State holds Penn State to say, seven second-chance points in the second half? Ohio State would’ve won by four. What if Ohio State holds Penn State to the same number of second half second-chance points it held Minnesota to two weeks ago — two? Ohio State would’ve won by nine.

Somehow, the Buckeyes only grabbed six defensive rebounds in the second half of that Penn State game. Six defensive rebounds in 20 minutes of basketball in a game they led by 12 at half. I was there, and still can’t quite wrap my head around that.

The point is, if Ohio State was even marginally better on the defensive glass against Penn State (if they were just bad instead of downright horrendous), they would’ve won the game and been 9-1. We probably wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

The Buckeyes can score enough to win games. They can defend (I think?) enough to keep their opponents from also getting to 80 most nights. They just need to locate and secure the basketball when their opponents miss shots. Box out, fellas!

Justin: Guard the other team’s guards better

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Villanova Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

I am not even sure that is how I want to word that, but it makes sense.

This is always an interesting time to start dissecting a team’s strengths and weaknesses. The Buckeyes are 8-2 and have had a good start to the season, but they don’t really have a huge win, and they have a bad loss after blowing the 18-point lead against Penn State.

We don’t truly know how good or bad a team is until conference play, but with only three games left in the nonconference schedule, we are starting to learn what teams do well and what they need to improve upon.

Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle have looked like one of the, if not the, best backcourt in the Big Ten to this point. However, in the two losses the Buckeyes have taken, the opposing guards have stolen the show.

In the Buckeye’s losses to Texas A&M and Penn State, Aggie guards Wade Taylor and Tyrese Radford combined for 42 of the team’s 73 points, and for Penn State, Ace Baldwin, D’Marco Dunn, and Kanye Clary combined for 44 of the Nittany Lions’ 83 points.

Adem Bona is UCLA’s best player, but I trust Felix Okpara on defense and Zed Key on offense to make him work on both ends and give him a tough time. However, three of the four Bruins scoring leaders are guards and can all score at all three levels. If Thornton, Gayle, and especially Dale Bonner aren’t all on lockdown on defense, any one of Sebastian Mack, Dylan Andrews, or Lazar Stefanovic can all go off for 20-25 points and win the game.

Roddy Gayle is dealing with an injury that makes him questionable for the UCLA game on Saturday. If he can’t go, Thornton and Bonner are going to have to play 30-35 minutes each, with Taison Chatman likely out.

In the Big Ten, with Purdue, Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin and others, guards must be defended better, or it could be a long season.


What does Ohio State need to clean up before UCLA?

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    Preventing second-chance points (Connor)
    (7 votes)
  • 41%
    Guarding guards better (Justin)
    (5 votes)
12 votes total Vote Now