BOISE, Idaho — Sometimes it takes being presented with the cold, raw numbers to appreciate something that has happened.
After Ohio State’s 81-73 win over South Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, a number of Buckeyes were informed that they had attempted 40 three-pointers against the Jackrabbits — a program record. And although that was laid out as being acceptable in the game plan, the big, round number still caught them off guard.
“We took 40 threes?” graduate transfer guard Andrew Dakich said. “How many did we make?”
The answer was 12, good for an even 30 percent. Entering the game, the Buckeyes were shooting 35.3 percent for the season and 19.1 attempts per game. But faced with a South Dakota State team literally daring Ohio State to pull up from deep, the Buckeyes were only too happy to oblige.
There was just one stipulation.
“Once those shots were open, they told us to just let it fly, shoot it with confidence and if you didn’t shoot it with confidence you don’t need to shoot it,” junior guard C.J. Jackson said. “That was pretty much the talk that (the coaches) gave us.”
The confidence didn’t always translate to success, though, as Dakich went 1 of 7 and Andre Wesson 0 of 5. Both players said they would need to get into the gym Friday and see some shots go in.
Coach Chris Holtmann said there were maybe 8-10 threes that he would question. Keita Bates-Diop took a career-high 13 threes, making four of them.
It was a game plan developed with the consultation of Gonzaga coach Mark Few, whose team eliminated the Jackrabbits in the first round of last year’s tournament.
“You saw them. No one’s guarding Andrew Dakich,” Holtmann said. “No one was guarding Andre. Sometimes it’s harder to make it in those situations, but I only took issue with about 10 of them.”
Otherwise, it was the product of a unique challenge provided by a mid-major able to light up the scoreboard quickly.
“We knew coming in there was a good chance they were going to really play off of us and really protect the paint,” assistant coach Ryan Pedon said. “They scheme as well as any team we’ve played all year in terms of personnel, so we thought coming in, if they’re the right threes, if they’re good threes, if they’re rhythm threes, we want to step up and take them.”
Just don’t expect to see a repeat performance against Gonzaga on Saturday — or possibly at any other point under Holtmann.
“We said hey, whatever shot we take tonight, we want them to be good shots but we’re going to be confident in taking them,” Pedon said. “I do think we took a lot more threes than we normally do, but a lot of that is that’s what the game called for too.”