Ohio State got the optimum version of Northeastern for a big victory: The Huskies came to Value City Arena after having played at Stanford on Friday night.
It certainly had something to do with how they came out to start against the Buckeyes. But in the end, the circumstances probably don’t matter as much as the feeling of confidence Ohio State is currently enjoying for the first time in years.
There’s been plenty of issues to discuss throughout this 4-0 start to the season for Ohio State. Attention to detail has been an issue at times, along with turnovers and poor outside shooting. But as it stands, this team hasn’t lost a game it shouldn’t lose and has inched into the top 70 nationally according to KenPom.com thanks in a big way to the play of senior Jae’Sean Tate and junior Keita Bates-Diop.
Now come the big boys. Ohio State faces Gonzaga on Thanksgiving night in Portland as part of the PK80 Invitational, and the Dispatch is the only local media outlet making the trip. It’s going to obviously be a bigger challenge than anything the Buckeyes have faced to this point, and they will enter the game feeling good about themselves at least.
“This team will have a chance to have a pretty solid season and to play as well as we did in the first half was really good,” coach Chris Holtmann said. “Having said that, the second half exposed us in some ways that we’ve been exposed in these four games. When we don’t play with great attention to detail and maximum effort on the defensive end, teams really make runs on us. We’ve seen that in these four games. They can really make runs on us because we can go into a couple droughts of our own. We’ve got to play with more consistent effort across the board defensively.
“It’s good to be 4-0 given that we’re headed into a stretch unlike any that I’ve coached in given how challenging it’s going to be.”
After blowing the doors off and racing out to a 47-17 halftime lead, the Buckeyes grew their advantage as high as 37 in the second half but were ultimately outscored, 38-33, in the final 20 minutes. That 30-point halftime lead was Ohio State’s first since a 2012 game Kansas City that it went on to win, 91-45.
Your high scorers that night? Deshaun Thomas had 21, Lenzelle Smith Jr. had 13, Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross both had 11 and Shannon Scott had 10.
With the win, the Buckeyes moved up from No. 73 in KenPom to No. 67.
Neither Tate nor Holtmann said they had any idea in the moment that he was having a perfect game from the floor. He’s the first player to not miss a shot while attempting at least 10 in a game at Value City Arena, and not surprisingly, he credited his teammates.
His own self-restraint helped, too.
“Early on in the game I just saw a couple opportunities to attack and then in the second half my teammates did a great job of getting it to me in the middle of the zone, where I think I’m very effective,” he said. “Without them, 10 for 10 probably wouldn’t happen. I’m pretty happy I didn’t throw something up there, too.”
He broke the record set by a former Buckeye now back on the bench: student manager Greg Oden. Against Iowa on Jan. 20, 2007, Oden was 12 for 13 (.923), just ahead of Ron Lewis going 10 for 11 (.909) on Jan. 5, 2006 against Penn State.
“Not missing a shot’s pretty good,” Holtmann said. “That’s pretty good. I didn’t realize he was 10 of 10 until somebody mentioned it.”
Both Bates-Diop and Tate put the Buckeyes on their backs at times. Tate opened the game by scoring 11 of Ohio State’s first 13 points. Later in the half, Bates-Diop scored 10 of his team’s 12 points.
What’s it like to feel so dominant for a time? Apparently, it’s exhausting.
“Tired,” Tate said. “Definitely I was like, ‘When’s the next media (timeout)? Coach, I need one.’ Definitely tiring, but that just comes with playing hard. I think 1-15, this whole team plays so hard. It’s not about going 10 for 10 or even the turnovers. As long as we go out there and play hard, which we have done the last four games, there’s been stretches we have to clean up a little bit more, but this team is doing a great job of going out there and trying to play hard.”
Added Bates-Diop, “Our teammates just found us in the right spots. JT, he was in the right spot and he ended up going 10 for 10. It wasn’t anything one-on-one. We were just doing what we’re supposed to do.”
Bates-Diop had a fantastic sequence where he dove for a loose ball, got it, lost it, got it back, passed it to Andrew Dakich, got it back and threw down a two-handed dunk. Then he threw his arms in the air to pump the crowd up as he ran back to play defense – an uncharacteristic move from the normally quiet junior.
“I think he looks like he’s having fun,” Holtmann said. “It’s fun to cut loose and play hard and leave it out there. I think that’s good to see him play. He’s not a super emotional guy. He doesn’t emote a whole lot, but that’s fine because he’s a great balance to Jae’Sean. Keita’s got to play full-throttle to be at his best. We’ve challenged him with playing with a great motor. When he does that he’s just really hard to handle because of his natural ability. Like any of us when he’s not playing full-throttle and with the motor that he needs to, that’s not necessarily the case, but when he’s playing with the motor he needs to, man, he can really impact things.”
Ohio State’s 4-0 start to the season hasn’t gone unnoticed nationally. Here are some tweets from national analysts from around the country during the Northeastern game:
Northeastern isn't a Tournament team, but they're decent. Ohio State's 47-17 halftime lead is impressive. The 3-0 Buckeyes look solid to start the season.
— Jeff (BPredict) (@BPredict) November 19, 2017
I think Ohio State might be kind of good at basketball this year?
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) November 19, 2017
With Bates Diop and Tate @OhioStateHoops will a tough out. Both are tough matchups, play hard and are experienced.
— Seth Greenberg (@SethOnHoops) November 19, 2017
Ohio State goes four-for-four in buy games. Buckeyes haven't helped our hurt themselves yet, but have held serve. Gonzaga in the PK80 next on Thursday.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) November 19, 2017
“We’ve got some great challenges. In non-conference, I’ve never gone through a stretch like this. I think for us, we’re literally just saying OK, can we go from game to game and improve how purposeful we are offensively and defensively? We’ll shoot it better from three, for sure. I believe that. I think that I just want to see us play a little more purposeful and then I want to continue to see how effectively our lineups work. When we go to the bench, what are some bench lineups that we can use that we think will be effective for us? I’m still trying to figure that out.” – Holtmann, on what he wants to see from his team as it enters a stretch of high-level competition.