Keyshawn Woods has been part of a team that has beaten Syracuse. Wednesday night, the Ohio State graduate transfer guard is hoping to play a more significant role this time around.
As a redshirt junior at Wake Forest last season, Woods logged five minutes in what would be a 73-67 home win against the Orange. Then an MCL strain knocked him out of the game, caused him to miss the next one and limited him for the remainder of the season.
He was in uniform when Wake Forest lost at Syracuse a month later and again when the Orange ended the Demon Deacons’ season in the ACC tournament. In all, he is 1-3 against Syracuse and hoping to contribute to a win for the Buckeyes.
“I just know for me being that it’s an ACC opponent that I lost to, they actually knocked us out of the tournament last year, I kind of want this game a lot,” Woods said Tuesday afternoon. “A lot. I really want this game, because they knocked us out of the ACC tournament last year.”
The injury is a thing of the past. Woods addressed it during the summer.
“I took some time off,” he said August 29, after the team’s exhibition trip to Spain. “It affected me playing a lot last year, but now I’m pretty much back to myself. I spent the whole summer getting healthy and doing everything I had to do in order to be me.”
In those three losses to Syracuse, Woods played an average of 30.3 minutes and scored 7.7 points per game. That final loss to the Orange provided some lessons Woods said the Buckeyes would be wise to heed Wednesday night.
“They sit back and wait for you to take bad shots and they also sit back for you to turn the ball over,” he said. “We did both those things in the tournament last year. I’m a competitor. I don’t like losing, and I’ve lost to them three times now and only beat them once and the game we did beat them, I got hurt so in my eyes I didn’t beat them. That’s why I really want this game.”
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann has praised Woods for his skills in combating zone defenses when the Buckeyes have faced him this season. It portends an impactful evening for the guard, and not just because he’s actually played against Syracuse before.
“We’ll rely on Keyshawn more because I think he’s got a good idea of how to attack zones in general and a pretty good feel for that,” Holtmann said. “Less that he has experience. That maybe plays in a little bit, but I think he has a good feel for attacking zones. I’d expect his minutes to be significant.”
Woods is the second graduate transfer to suit up for the Buckeyes in as many years after Andrew Dakich joined the team last year. Ohio State has signed a three-man recruiting class for 2019, but with the loss of Micah Potter shortly before the start of the season, one spot remains open for next year’s roster.
Holtmann was asked if the Buckeyes were already collecting information to go that route again and land a graduate transfer.
“I think you always have to be active in that market nowadays to some degree,” he said. “Doesn’t mean every year we’re going to add one. I think you always have to have an awareness of that. That has obviously been really effective for us and for a lot of programs. It’s got to be the right, though. We have an awareness. That doesn’t mean we’re going to add one. We’re not sure at this point if we would or not.”
Not concerned with No. 1
Monday, Ohio State climbed seven spots to No. 16 in the Associated Press top 25 national poll. Tuesday, the Buckeyes debuted at No. 1 in the NCAA’s new NET rankings, which have replaced the RPI to assist the NCAA Tournament selection committee with its seeding process.
They have since dropped to No. 2, with Texas Tech supplanting them atop the rankings. Either way, Ohio State wasn’t very concerned about the numbers.
“We didn’t really know about it until after practice, but it’s early on,” Woods said. “That doesn’t really matter. We just focus on our game, focus on what’s next ahead because any given day if we don’t bring it, we could lose and the next thing you know we’re out of the top 25 or those rankings. As a team we haven’t really talked about it that much because we just focus on us and getting better each day.”
Two key numbers
That’s not to say that the Buckeyes aren’t concerned about their rankings in other ways. Holtmann cited two concerning categories in the KenPom.com statistical rankings.
“People asked me about all kinds of numbers (Tuesday) with this new ranking,” he said. “The only numbers I’m concerned about are we’re 136 in turnover percentage and 154 in defensive rebounding percentage. Those numbers are the only numbers I’m concerned about. Those numbers aren’t very good right now, and they’re symptomatic of a team that that’s going to get us beat if we don’t do everything we can – it’s not like we’ve got incredible size or length, but we’ve got to do a better job in those areas and I’ve got to do a better job of coaching them.”
Return to the return
Ohio State’s last home game came at St. John Arena, when the Buckeyes hosted Cleveland State last Friday on the hardwood at their former home. It came the night before the football team hosted Michigan, and Holtmann said that could become an annual tie-in event.
“Yes, we have had those discussions,” he said. “So every two years, making that Friday night, we absolutely have had those discussions.”
As for the game experience itself, Holtmann said he’s gotten limited feedback but that it’s primarily been positive.
“I got a few emails,” he said. “I’m sure Gene (Smith) probably got a lot of good ones and maybe a few bad ones: hey, the bathrooms were this and the concessions were that and it was too hot in there. By and large, I thought it was a fantastic night. Having it before the game contributed to that, but I thought it was a great environment and a tremendous night. We’ll evaluate where to go from here when it comes to St. John.”