Sometimes perception doesn't match reality when it comes to Ohio State. For the average fan who has perhaps only tuned in to see the Buckeyes play No. 6 Virginia, coach Thad Matta's 13th team is one that, yet again, can't seem to hold onto the basketball.

Sometimes perception doesn't match reality when it comes to Ohio State.

For the average fan who has perhaps only tuned in to see the Buckeyes play No. 6 Virginia, coach Thad Matta's 13th team is one that, yet again, can't seem to hold onto the basketball.

But after a dip in every measurable metric last season, the Buckeyes are back to having more assists than turnovers. It's a key statistical category that the coaching staff identified during the offseason after the Buckeyes gave the ball away more for the first time under Matta than they gave it to their teammates for baskets.

It's not on the same level as the Cleveland Cavaliers just yet, but Ohio State has a 1.1 assist-to-turnover ratio with 153 assists against 134 turnovers. Last season, the Buckeyes had 54 more turnovers than assists, a big reason why their season ended in the NIT.

"Basketball's a mistake game," junior forward Keita Bates-Diop said. "You're going to have turnovers. Not many teams can go a whole game without turning the ball over. It's going to happen - it's just making sure you focus on the bad ones, like throwing it into traffic or just not thinking. We know it's going to happen, we're just trying to not have a lot of them."

Against Virginia on Nov. 30, the Buckeyes turned it over 20 times. Since that game, they have reduced their turnover total in three straight games, from 14 against Fairleigh Dickinson to 12 against Florida Atlantic to a season-low seven against Connecticut last Saturday. It was the lowest mark since the Buckeyes had five at home against Northwestern last season.

Sophomore point guard JaQuan Lyle, who had eight turnovers against the Cavaliers, has improved his assist-to-turnover ratio from 1.4 to 2.0 this year. It's outings like the Virginia game that Lyle and the Buckeyes can't afford as they face No. 2 UCLA today in Las Vegas as part of the CBS Sports Classic.

Whether the majority of this year's turnovers have been forced or unforced varies with each game, Matta said. The type of turnover is important, too, as Matta pointed out that numerous turnovers last season resulted in easy baskets for opponents.

There's still plenty of progress to be made. Junior forward Jae'Sean Tate said the goal is to average between 9-10 turnovers a game, and Ohio State enters today at 13.4.

"Getting our guys to understand coming out of the Virginia game, 20 turnovers is not a good thing when you're going into that type of situation," Matta said. "That has been something that has been worked on, drilled on and talked a lot about."

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy