BOISE, Idaho – It’s time to clean out the notebook as Ohio State prepares to face Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Jae’Sean Tate’s passion has always been a big part of his talent. Lately, though, the senior has struggled to stay on the good side of the whistles.
In Ohio State’s first-round NCAA Tournament win against South Dakota State, he was limited to 21 minutes and had to sit at the end after picking up his fifth foul. It marked the third straight game in which he has picked up at least four fouls, and it’s a situation that will have to improve for the Buckeyes to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
“The first two I picked up (against the Jackrabbits) are just those 50-50 calls,” he said Friday afternoon inside the team’s locker room in Taco Bell Arena. “Some refs call it and some refs don’t. (Thursday) night I thought my wall-up was pretty good and my over-the-back call, I thought it could go either way. That’s just how the game goes sometimes. I would say my biggest thing I’ve got to focus on is not picking up those dumb ones after I get my second one. You saw (Thursday) I got my third one and then I picked up my fourth one, which I totally could’ve put myself in a better situation.”
Tate is third on the team in minutes played this season and leads the Buckeyes with 103 personal fouls, an average of 3.1 per game. He’s finished 11 games with four fouls and fouled out of five others.
“He’s just got to be a little bit more aware of aggressive versus smarter with his fouling,” coach Chris Holtmann said. “He’s such an aggressive kid that it’s hard for him. We’ll get better with him on it for sure.”
Holtmann raised some eyebrows with his comment on the national television broadcast shortly after the Buckeyes beat the Jackrabbits and avoided the 5-12 upset.
“I just want to thank all the fine, smart, clever journalists that didn’t pick us,” he said. “We’ve got some great ones out there, and trust me, our guys were aware of that.”
One day later, Holtmann tried to walk some of those comments back.
“It was just kind of a good-natured comment that I made that somehow took off,” he said. “I was just having fun in the moment. I get it. I understand it. I understand why people picked them, I really do. I understand why people had questions about us. No one’s certainly going to pick us to win this game (against Gonzaga), and I get that. I don’t know at the end of the day how much that impacts things or not, but I showed it to a couple of the guys.”
Holtmann had the team’s video coordinator, Kyle Davis, track down as many predictions of an Ohio State loss as he could find Monday night.
“Well, he got on the internet and the next day on my desk was about 25 sheets of national media people picking us,” Holtmann said. “And I get it. It’s 5-12, you always have a couple 5-12 upsets, so I understand that. I’m just glad it didn’t happen to us.”
Picking Ohio State
Salt Lake City is roughly a five-hour drive from Boise, but it’s as close to home as Connor Fulton has been since the summer. The freshman walk-on at Ohio State initially committed to be a preferred walk-on at Butler, only to follow Holtmann’s coaching staff to Ohio State when he took the job in early June.
His arrival for summer workouts marked the first time Fulton had ever stepped foot on campus. He was willing to move more than 1,700 miles across the country thanks to a relationship established early in his high school days with assistant coach Mike Schrage, who was an assistant coach at Stanford from 2008-16.
“I was in Salt Lake City but my dream school was always Stanford until sophomore year,” Fulton told The Dispatch. “I went to a few of their elite camps. That’s where I met coach Schrage and he recruited me at Stanford so I developed a relationship with him. Then he went to Butler and that’s how I got connections with coach Holtmann and the staff. That’s why I ended up committing there over the other schools and then found my way to Ohio State.”
Fulton said his other basketball offer was from North Dakota. His biggest deciding factor in picking a college, he said, was the relationship he would have with the coaching staff.
His parents made the 5 ½ hour drive for the NCAA Tournament, he said, and several friends from high school attend Boise State and were on hand for Ohio State’s open practice Wednesday.
“Boise is a lot like a scaled-down version of Salt Lake City,” he said. “It feels more like home than Columbus does, so it is nice getting out west because I haven’t really been home since I got here (to Ohio State) in the summer.”
Williams tangles with cameraman
Kam Williams came up with two huge plays late in the South Dakota State game that helped fend off the upset, but he had an unusual tussle during the first half.
As he was going for a loose ball underneath the Ohio State basket, Williams found himself falling face-first into the waist-high partition separating the floor seating from the South Dakota State band. It was a scary moment, but he emerged unscathed.
“I went to save the ball,” he said. “I wasn’t going to fall, but when I was going for the ball one of the camera dudes grabbed my knee and I just fell. I was like, what are you doing? That’s all that was.”
The photographer, who likely was trying to help keep Williams on his feet, briefly riled him up.
“I was just mad,” he said. “It kind of felt like he tripped me a little bit. I was just (ticked) off that that actually happened, but I wasn’t really thinking about it after I got up.”
With fans and photographers sitting courtside and occasionally playing on elevated courts, Williams said he doesn’t spend much time worrying about what players could potentially collide with while in the game.
“When you get lost in the game, you don’t really care about that type of stuff,” he said. “I just wanted to get the ball, so I didn’t really care about anybody’s camera or anything. I just wanted to get the ball. That’s just being lost in the game, lost in emotion and things like that.”