Ohio State was trading baskets early with William & Mary when coach Chris Holtmann did something unusual. For the first time this season, he pulled Keita Bates-Diop as his first substitution of the game.
At that moment, Ohio State trailed by two points, and Bates-Diop’s energy level wasn’t where it needed to be.
“I wasn’t playing well in the first few minutes,” Bates-Diop said afterward. “He treats us all equally, so he pulled me. I got back in and picked it up.”
He did, and so did his teammates. Against a prolific three-point shooting team, the Buckeyes took control near the midway point of the first half, put together a 27-4 run and flirted with some arena records in dispatching the Tribe 97-62 on Saturday at Value City Arena.
Bates-Diop, after his slow start, scored a career-high 27 points and could have had more. Holtmann rested him with 7:01 to play and Ohio State’s lead at 35 points.
“I just wanted to see him improve his effort a little bit,” Holtmann said. “He’s such an impressive kid in terms of how much he wants to be coached and get better.”
William & Mary (6-3) had Holtmann’s attention because through eight games it was second nationally in three-point shooting percentage and eighth in effective field-goal percentage. To counter, the Buckeyes (9-3) aimed to keep the Tribe away from the line with their length, and it worked. Their 16 three-point attempts were a season low, as were their 62 points.
It left open some interior gaps that were exploited early, but the Buckeyes compensated by making more than half of their threes for the second time in three games.
It took Ohio State going 2 of 10 in the final six minutes, when Holtmann emptied the bench and deployed his walk-ons, for its shooting percentage to dip to 64.8 percent. Until that point, the Buckeyes had shot 75.0 percent (33 for 44), which would have easily been an arena record.
As the final seconds ticked off and the Buckeyes bled the clock, fans were clamoring for one final three-pointer to push the score into triple digits.
“We got whipped,” said William & Mary coach Tony Shaver, who has 199 career wins. “What else can you say? We got humbled by a team that’s much, much better than we are.”
Already without sophomore center Micah Potter, who continues to recover from an ankle injury suffered Nov. 19 against Northeastern, the Buckeyes suffered another lineup loss against the Tribe. After suffering a sprained right ankle during practice Thursday, freshman forward Kyle Young was a game-day scratch from the lineup, giving Holtmann only eight available recruited scholarship players.
Holtmann also adjusted his starting lineup, using his fifth of the season. Holtmann brought Jackson back into the starting lineup, in place of Musa Jallow, alongside Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams, Bates-Diop and Kaleb Wesson.
Young is expected to be available for Ohio State’s next game, on Saturday at home against Appalachian State.
“We’ve tried to talk with our guys about the importance of this finishing nonconference stretch,” Holtmann said. “I think that our guys are motivated to hopefully do this well.”
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