Chris Holtmann gave some interestingly detailed insight into why he was so concerned about William & Mary.
Today, Ohio State blitzed the Tribe and won handily, 97-62, by shooting 64.8 percent from the floor and only letting its opponent attempt 16 three-pointers. That marked a season low for William & Mary, and it was by design.
“I had this conversation with Ken Pomeroy at some point in the last 3-4 years that teams that shoot this volume and shoot it with this efficiency, what’s really key is limiting their attempts,” Holtmann said. “Now, that extends you. That opens you up to slips and drives and that affects your two-point field-goal percentage a little bit, but I’ve seen those guys shoot through eight games and if we were going to allow them to shoot 28-30 threes, they’re going to make 14 or 15 of those and we’re in trouble. We did try to limit their attempts. That was important for us.”
It certainly worked. William & Mary was shooting 47.3 percent from three for the season, second-best in the nation, and it was eighth nationally in effective field-goal percentage according to Pomeroy’s advanced statistics on KenPom.com.
The Buckeyes limited the Tribe to 31.3 percent three-point shooting including a 1-for-6 effort in the second half.
“In my option that’s clearly what they tried to take away from us,” William & Mary coach Tony Shaver said.
The early result was that the Tribe found some easy offensive baskets at the rim.
“When you’re guarding a team that plays this way and spreads you out, your fifth defender, wherever he’s at, needs to be really alert,” Holtmann said. “Our fifth defender wasn’t always alert. There were times when they had five three-point shooters shooting over 45 percent on the floor. We weren’t always alert with our fifth defender on our help-side and that was a by-product of that. Some of the easy stuff they got, we weren’t as active as we needed to be on the ball and we were more spread out than we usually are.”
Keita Bates-Diop had a career-high 27 points to power the Buckeyes, but Kaleb Wesson was arguably just as important. He finished with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, pulled down seven rebounds and had a career-high three steals. He also had two assists (a number I feel is low) as William & Mary tried to double him in the post.
Instead, Wesson was usually able to see the pressure coming and find an open teammate with the ball.
“It helps out a lot because we’re all ready to shoot,” Bates-Diop said of Wesson’s all-around game. “He can score down there, so teams have to respect that. He’s good at finding us. He’s good at finding the open guy on the perimeter.”
Added Kam Williams, “He’s been doing that all summer. He’s been doing that in practice. He’s going out there and displaying his talents. We all believe in him. This isn’t really a surprise for us.”
The Buckeyes were without freshman forward Kyle Young, who suffered a sprained right ankle during Thursday’s practice. That left Holtmann without two of his primary post players with sophomore center Micah Potter still sidelined with his own ankle injury.
The goal is to have Potter back for the resumption of Big Ten play. Young should be back for Saturday’s game against Appalachian State. The two injuries are different.
“I think Kyle, we think he’ll be back on Saturday,” Holtmann said. “Micah’s was a high ankle sprain, his was a lower sprain. I’ve never had this many sprained ankles in coaching a team. It’s unbelievable. You question is there something you’re doing as a coach, but each one has happened in a different way. Guys have stepped on feet. I think Kyle will be back. And then once we do get our full team back, you’ve got to figure out what’s the rotation look like in that situation. I think Kyle will be back on Saturday.”
This was the first time Potter’s injury has specifically been described as a high-ankle sprain. He’s been limited to 13 minutes in three appearances spread across the last seven games.
Junior guard C.J. Jackson returned to the starting lineup for the Buckeyes and finished with 16 points, six assists and zero turnovers in 28 minutes.
It’s his first game without a turnover this season. He now has three in his last three games after losing his starting spot in large part for having struggled taking care of the ball.
“I’ve been pleased with a lot of what C.J.’s done,” Holtmann said. “I don’t know if (I was) sending as message as much as that’s what coaches do. We’re trying to help him understand that he can improve in this area, needs to improve as important as he is for our team. He continues to respond. Now, they’re a team that they don’t create many turnovers at all. They just don’t. The real challenge will be when we play a team that creates a lot of turnovers with their activity, how does he respond in that stretch? So far he’s been able to make more poised, smart decisions with the ball and he’s, offensively, really impacting the game with his ability to make threes.”
The Buckeyes tied a season high with 19 assists. They finished with 11 turnovers, their fourth-lowest total of the year.
Wesson also had a once-in-a-season type of highlight. During the first half, the 6-9, 270-pound center came up with a steal near halfcourt, lumbered unabated to the basket and dunked.
Not many people saw that coming, least of all his teammates.
“I was just as surprised as you,” Williams said with a laugh. “One, I’ve never seen him run that fast, and two, I’ve never seen him dunk off a run like that. That got us pretty hyped.”
Graduate transfer Andrew Dakich likewise had a steal-and-score, although he finished with a layup instead of a dunk.
So which one was more surprising?
“Andrew’s,” Bates-Diop immediately replied.
“Andrew’s for sure,” Williams added. “Andrew’s pretty slow.”
Ohio State’s players turn their attention to their books this week with finals looming at the university. The Buckeyes will be off Sunday and Tuesday, Holtmann said, and likely have a light day Monday as players prepare for and take their exams.
“Very tough (balance),” Williams said. “I have stats and I’m terrible at math. That’s all I’ve been doing. I’m not even worried about my other classes, just the stats one is kicking me. That’s not until the 14th, but I’ve been studying every single day. We’ll see how it goes.”
Bates-Diop said he has three finals Monday.
“We’ve got a really important week for finals,” Holtmann said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that need to finish this thing well. These guys are students and you always have to worry about the game before finals and after finals.”
“Getting back on defense, I was jogging back. I know their big man got the transition dunk that one time, and that’s what did it for him. That’s when he pulled me. I think it helped because it reset my mind. I obviously wasn’t ready to play the first few minutes, so him taking me out, it reset my mind and going back in I was ready to play.” – Bates-Diop, on being benched early by Holtmann
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