NEW ORLEANS – If you throw out the final seven minutes of the first half, Ohio State played the No. 5 team in the country to a draw.
The problem for the Buckeyes is that, during those final seven minutes of the half, North Carolina put together a 24-7 run that pushed the game out of reach. In the opening game of the CBSSports Classic, the Tar Heels shook off a mid-week loss to Wofford and snapped the Buckeyes’ five-game winning streak with an 86-72 win at the Smoothie King Center.
There were plenty of important points were examining during the other parts of the game, but the way the Tar Heels pulled away merits some further inspection. Entering this game, they were getting 25.5 percent of their scoring from the three-point line while shooting 38.3 percent. With Ohio State ahead 20-17, North Carolina hit four straight threes and eventually six of seven to take control.
For the game, the Tar Heels were 13 for 25 (52.0 percent) from three. Both Ohio State and North Carolina made 26 field goals, and the Buckeyes actually attempted two more shots than did the Tar Heels.
Ohio State was 5 of 16 from three. The Tar Heels got 45.3 percent of their scoring from behind the three-point line.
“They really made shots in the middle part of the first half,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “We had some defensive lapses but give them credit for making those plays, particularly in that stretch in the first half when they got loose for a couple. (Jalek) Felton hit four in the game and a couple in that stretch.”
North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he prefers to have more balance to his offense but that he’ll obviously take 13 threes in each game. The Tar Heels hit 16 in a win against Western Carolina but otherwise had only reached double digits in three of their first 12 games.
Today, it was the difference. In the final seven minutes of the first half, the Tar Heels were 7 for 13 from the floor but 6 of 7 from three with two turnovers while the Buckeyes were 3 for 9 from the floor, 0 for 2 from three and committed four turnovers.
After playing 19 minutes against the Citadel on Tuesday, sophomore center Micah Potter played eight minutes – four in each half – today. Holtmann simply said he’s fine when asked about his injury status after the game, but freshman Kyle Young was a different story.
Young played seven minutes and left the bench during the first half for what Holtmann said was an eye injury.
“Kyle got poked in the eye and lost vision for a little bit, so we had to get him out,” the coach said. “He really had trouble seeing. I think it just shook him up because he couldn’t see out of one eye for a little bit.”
He finished with one rebound, one turnover and one missed shot in seven minutes of playing time.
Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State’s go-to scorer, picked up two quick fouls and came out of the game roughly five minutes in. That left a void in the offense that was filled on this night by sophomore point guard C.J. Jackson, who scored the first 11 points of the game for the Buckeyes.
“My teammates just found me in the right spots, pretty much,” he said. “Just taking what the defense gave me in the beginning.”
He battled with Joel Berry II, a former Final Four Most Outstanding Player, for much of the game and held his own. I asked Berry what he knew of Jackson entering the game.
“I didn’t know too much about him,” he said. “We watched film on him and I knew he was a good three-point shooter. I was a little frustrated in the first half because I gave him a couple of open ones, but he’s a pretty good player shooting the ball from the outside but in the second half I tried to make it a little more difficult for him and tried to get a hand up on his shot. One time I went out there and he shot an airball. Just being more active on the ball and trying to disrupt him, but he’s a pretty good player, though.”
Jackson also caught my eye when, during the second half, he flipped the ball to an official after a stoppage in play and hit him in the face. When he got back to the huddle, Holtmann indicated what had happened and Jackson ran back across the court to apologize to the official.
Ohio State did not grab a first-half offensive rebound and finished with three for the game. It was the fewest offensive rebounds for the Buckeyes since they had three in a 76-66 home win against Michigan on Feb. 16, 2016.
Bates-Diop didn’t excuse it, but the game plan had a part in that.
“They’re a good defensive rebounding team,” he said. “Part of our thing is they’re big in transition so we were sending one or two back.”
Since Ohio State beat No. 4 Kentucky in this event two seasons ago, it has found no success against top-five teams. This is now the fifth straight loss to a top-five team:
*100-65 loss at No. 3 Maryland on Jan. 16, 2016
*91-76 loss at No. 2 Michigan State on March 5, 2016
*81-54 loss to No. 2 Michigan State in Big Ten tournament on March 11, 2016
*86-73 loss to No. 2 UCLA in this event Dec. 17, 2016
12 – second-half points scored by Kaleb Wesson after a scoreless first half.
1 – points scored by Pickerington Central product Sterling Manley, who played 11 minutes against his hometown school
0 – first-half offensive rebounds by the Buckeyes
0 – combined points from Musa Jallow and Kam Williams, who have flip-flopped as starters at shooting guard
6 – assists from Jae’Sean Tate, tying a career high
Sights and sounds
A few moments I captured from inside Smoothie King Arena:
Video! Watch the #Buckeyes take the floor to face #UNC in the CBSSports Classic. pic.twitter.com/OetXvDTmHp— Adam Jardy (@AdamJardy) December 23, 2017
Greg Oden sinks a one-handed shot from the courtside seats. #buckeyes pic.twitter.com/ujKhG0QynR— Adam Jardy (@AdamJardy) December 23, 2017
“I really like Chris and have a lot of respect for the job he does. I’ve watched his club. Nobody realizes how difficult that is. He came in in June. He’s got a lot of new players and every one of them is new to him. They’re defending, they’re sharing the ball, they’re trying to play hard, his best players are getting most of their shots. That’s what coaching’s all about. I watched them against Wisconsin, Michigan and Appalachian State and they were impressive in many different ways in all three of those games.” – Williams on the Buckeyes
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