OMAHA, Nebraska – Keyshawn Woods was too far into his own head. His teammates didn’t see it that way, and Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann didn’t, either.
Two games into his only season with the Buckeyes, the graduate transfer from Wake Forest had been a complementary piece to a 2-0 start but not much more. Entering Thursday’s game at Creighton, the 22-year-old Woods had scored 11 points while serving as an impact substitution off the bench and playing starters’ minutes. He was 4 of 14 from the floor, 1 for 6 from three and deep inside his own thoughts.
“I’m going to say I’ve been in my head mentally,” he said Thursday night. “Mentally, something was going on, but I’ve got my edge, I’ve got my love, my little flow now with my teammates having my back. I’m good to go.”
He certainly was against the Bluejays. Without his 15 first-half points, the Buckeyes would not have had anything close to the 12-point lead they held on Creighton at the half. Without his two crucial assists in the final two minutes to key a 13-0 run to close the game, they almost certainly would not have improved to 3-0 with a 69-60 win.
This was more the type of game Woods was expected to bring to the Buckeyes after averaging 12.5 and 11.9 points, respectively, during his last two seasons with Wake Forest: that of a confident, steady veteran ready for big stages.
“I thought he was pretty good at times against Cincinnati and I thought tonight he just had it going and made shots,” Holtmann said. “He’s a good shooter. I just think with this team right now we’re going to see different guys have good nights on different nights and some guys are going to struggle.”
Senior C.J. Jackson would certainly seem to have fit that bill against the Bluejays. After a career-high 25-point performance the last time out, Jackson missed his first seven shots and was scoreless until he hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 2:10 to play.
The assist went to Woods.
“I don’t think he was in his head,” Jackson said of his backcourt mate. “I just think he was trying not to step on anybody’s toes or anything like that. We want him, we know what he can do and make big-time plays for us. Without Keyshawn, tonight we probably wouldn’t have won. We need him to stay aggressive and play how he plays.”
It wasn’t just the scoring or his assists that made Woods look different in this game. A self-assured but semi-quiet interview, Woods was more vocal throughout the game. At one point he barked at Creighton’s Mitch Ballock as the two teams got tangled up while heading to their respective benches for a timeout.
“Motivation-wise, probably the most they’ve seen me fired up, trying to keep everybody motivated and making sure that we’re still in the game, making sure they know we’re not going to lose,” he said. “That’s probably the most I’ve talked this year.”