When Andrew Dakich sparked Ohio State to a road win at Iowa two games ago, I wrote that the graduate transfer had played the most meaningful moments of his career.
Tonight’s game will certainly give that a run for the money. The former Michigan walk-on was the talk of the game after scoring 11 points – all in the first half – to key a game-changing run that spurred the Buckeyes to a 91-69 win against Maryland. The numbers continue to be stunning for Dakich’s career:
*With 10 Big Ten points in his career entering the season and seven this season, he eclipsed both totals in a six-minute stretch.
*Dakich was 1 for 4 from three in his Wolverines career. Tonight he was 3 for 4.
*He set career highs tonight in minutes played (27), points (11) and threes (3).
Simply put, nobody saw this kind of production in the offing for Dakich, who actually redshirted as a senior at Michigan before transferring into the program during the summer.
“No, I did not expect this,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “. I recruited him in high school when I was at Gardner-Webb, so we saw him and liked him as a player. Son of a coach, tough, competitive, probably needs to keep his mouth shut a little more out there on the floor with some of the things. I knew Dan, so I knew he had a real competitive streak in him, which I really wanted.”
That was years ago. Then after taking the Ohio State job, Holtmann was looking at a June roster with seven healthy scholarship bodies. It was a situation so dire, Holtmann said the staff discussed recruiting players from a summer rec league to fill out the roster before ultimately landing Dakich as well as freshmen Musa Jallow and Kyle Young.
It provided a warm body, but one with far more questions than answers.
“Then we saw practice footage, which was really the only thing you could go off of,” Holtmann said. “I think the practice footage didn’t show a whole lot, right? So we didn’t expect this. He’s been much better defensively than I anticipated, but I think that speaks to his maturity and it speaks to his understanding, being well-coached for four years, which is a credit to John (Beilein). I’d be lying if I said I expected this. I wish I could say that, but I can’t.”
Dakich entered the Maryland game shooting 70.0 percent (7 for 10) from three this year. His only Big Ten three-pointer for the Buckeyes was a 30-foot heave at the end of the first half against Michigan State on Sunday that banked in, sending Value City Arena into a frenzy. On the drive home from that game, Holtmann said he spoke with a close coaching friend who told him Dakich was going to have to hit some big threes against a conference opponent – or at least attempt some.
Holtmann said as much during Wednesday’s press conference, and Dakich was aware of those comments.
“I actually saw that interview,” he said. “For him to answer those questions I was like, ‘Now I’ve really got to start shooting.’ My dad’s always like, ‘Dude, just shoot the ball sometimes.’ Keita, JT, I try to get those guys the ball and try to be efficient with getting them the ball and putting them in the right positions. Tonight I was just open and fortunate enough to knock them down.”
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said that while the Terrapins were aware Dakich was shooting a high percentage, they weren’t overly focused on him because he’s not exactly a high-volume shooter. The focus – and understandably so – was on Keita Bates-Diop, who continues to play at an all-Big Ten level.
It wasn’t all perfect, though – and Dakich admitted as such. He was credited with an assist on a C.J. Jackson second-half layup, but that wasn’t exactly the plan when he banked an off-balance drive hard off the glass and nowhere near the rim.
“We’re going to go with an assist,” he said. “That was just bad. That was a shot. That was a shot. That was bad.”
Against a depleted Maryland team that played a lot of zone and tried to take away Ohio State’s interior game, Holtmann responded by going without a true center for much of the game. Freshman Kaleb Wesson saw only 15 minutes and finished with eight points and five rebounds, while Micah Potter (seven minute, five points) and Kyle Young (three minutes, one rebound) saw considerably limited action.
Potter was one of the two players taken out of the game midway through the first half with the Maryland lead up to a game-high seven points and did not return until late in the first half, but Holtmann said he wasn’t sending a message.
“Just straight matchups,” he said. “I would have loved to have played them but I didn’t think we’d be able to do it. Playing 10 guys is a lot anyway. Most teams are playing eight or nine guys right now. We’re still trying to play 10 guys but it’s impossible to ask. We didn’t play Kaleb a lot tonight because we felt like in order to defend their ball screens and how they were going to spread us out, we needed to play smaller.”
The play of guys like Dakich allowed the Buckeyes to go small. It also shifted Jae’Sean Tate to power forward for essentially the first time all year.
“It depends on how tough your small guys are,” he said. “If your small guys are soft, you’re in trouble. If you’re going to be smaller, then you’d better find a way to dig in and be tougher. That’s what Andrew provides for us. That’s what Jae’Sean’s versatility, we have not played him at the four all year this year at all, but we had to because they weren’t guarding him. They started out not guarding him or Andrew, and then when you had Kaleb out there too, the floor was, we couldn’t do much. So I think the ability to play smaller and hopefully defend, those guards did a good job of fronting in the post when they got posted by bigger guys. That was good to see.”
Ohio State did two things it hasn’t done in a long time, and the two statistics went hand-in-hand.
The Buckeyes hit 17 three-pointers, their most since making that many in a double-overtime game against LSU on Jan. 15, 2005. And on their 32 field goals, the Buckeyes had 25 assists – their second-most this season.
“We have a group of unselfish guys and coach (Ryan) Pedon does a great job in practice of making sure we take the best shots available,” Tate said. “Also, the way they were playing off of us. Their defensive schemes, they were real gap-oriented so we were able to find shooters and luckily today I felt like nobody could miss. That was a big part.”
Holtmann, too, cited Pedon for the helpers.
“As coach Pedon likes to say, the ball had good ball energy tonight,” he said. “We’ve gotten clearly better with that. Now, this was a game were we noticed they were really trying to take away our interior game with Keita and Kaleb and JT, so guys are going to be open. Just pass to them. I think they did a really good job with that. I don’t know that I’ve coached, very few times in my career have we had that number of assists. It’s really impressive. I don’t know if I’ve ever had that in a league play game.”
20 – Ohio State’s current national ranking according to KenPom.com
3 – Number of remaining Big Ten games in which KenPom does not project an Ohio State win
2 – Number of consecutive games in which the Buckeyes have single-digit turnovers (six against Michigan State, nine against Maryland)
4 – Number of consecutive games Ohio State had lost to Maryland
6 – Number of assists tonight for Tate, tying for a career high
8 – Different Buckeyes to make at least one three-pointer tonight
Twitterverse Here's an interesting in-game tweet from Jeremiah Francis, a 2019 prospect who committed to North Carolina after significant Ohio State interest:
https://t.co/kGVub0Cxqe— Jeremiah Francis (@JFrancis30_) January 12, 2018
This one at halftime from Ohio State's managers made me laugh.
pic.twitter.com/POCtJfnAil— OSU BBall Managers (@OSUManagers) January 12, 2018
Former Indiana coach Tom Crean cited my all-time favorite basketball player when discussing Dakich:
Who new that Mark Price was at the @OhioStateHoops and @TerrapinHoops game dressed as @daycheck3. Andrew is lighting it up. Good for him! Keep making St. Charles proud!!— Tom Crean (@TomCrean) January 12, 2018
ESPN analyst and former college coach Seth Greenberg had two in-game tweets on the Buckeyes.
No hangover for @OhioStateHoops This team is confident and disciplined offensively and defensively. Will be interesting to see them on the road.— Seth Greenberg (@SethOnHoops) January 12, 2018
Never underestimate experience. Tate and Bates Diop. This and addition by subtraction with a player leaving the program makes for a team with great chemistry. @OhioStateHoops @bigten— Seth Greenberg (@SethOnHoops) January 12, 2018
And here is CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein:
Ohio State is emerging into a Big Ten contender and Andrew Dakich is emerging into a capable role player. The Buckeyes look real and lately, even spectacular.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) January 12, 2018
Last but certainly not least, program legend Clark Kellogg:
Another impressive dub for @OhioStateHoops! This team is easy on the eyes. A lotta good stuff and plenty of contributors..#StayThirsty— Clark Kellogg (@ClarkKelloggCBS) January 12, 2018
“No, and that’s what makes us great. I think we understand the task at hand. We take every day personally and we’re just trying to get better. It’s a long season. There’s going to be ups and downs. Us three have been through it, so we’re telling the other guys, ‘Look, there’s going to be runs other guys are going to go on in games. How are going to come back from that?’ That’s been the message.” – Dakich, when asked if the Buckeyes are privately talking Big Ten title.