The best-remembered nonconference game in recent Ohio State history isn’t one the Buckeyes care to relive.
It has been two seasons since Texas-Arlington came to Value City Arena and snapped Ohio State’s string of 151 consecutive wins against non-major conference opponents.
Chris Holtmann wasn’t the coach then, but it’s a game he referenced as the Buckeyes prepared to face another Sun Belt Conference team in Appalachian State on Saturday.
And when the Buckeyes won that one by 13 points to improve to 9-3 despite Holtmann’s concern about some of the matchups, it was the latest indicator that this year’s team is determined to not repeat mistakes.
“Ever since what happened the last few years, we’ve made that an emphasis with all the new guys coming in,” junior Keita Bates-Diop said before the Appalachian State game of placing proper importance on nonconference games. “We didn’t really take full advantage of it. These games matter, obviously. UT-Arlington in that season, that kept us out of the tournament in the end and we can’t have that same thing happen this year.”
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His words are especially relevant for a game Tuesday night. The Buckeyes host The Citadel, which at No. 315 in the KenPom.com rankings is the lowest-rated team on the schedule this season.
The Bulldogs are a top-10 team nationally in steals, turnovers and made three-pointers per game, but they are allowing 89.6 points per game — the third-worst total in Division I. Three teams have reached 100 points against them this season, including Virginia Tech, which put up 132 on Nov. 12.
It’s expected that most fans are already looking ahead to a game Saturday in New Orleans with No. 5 North Carolina, but the challenge for the Buckeyes is to not do the same and stumble at home like they did last season against Florida Atlantic, a two-point overtime loss to the No. 271 team in the nation.
That kind of result hasn’t happened yet on Holtmann’s watch.
“The reality is in today’s game, there really is a lot of parity across the board,” he said. “You see a lot of guys that can play at really any level of college basketball. You see that with graduate transfers who might transfer up and they come in and make a real impact. I think our guys have an understanding how capable a lot of these teams are.”
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