Ohio State men's basketball | Early hustle plays stand out in Minnesota rewatch

Adam Jardy
Ohio State Buckeyes put their arms around each other and sing "Carmen Ohio" after the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Value City Arena in Columbus on December 2, 2018. Ohio State won 79-59. [Samantha Madar]

Ohio State won its Big Ten opener Sunday night against Minnesota with Brandon Gaudin on the call and Jon Crispin adding his analysis for the Big Ten Network telecast.

Settle in, folks. Here’s what the broadcast told us.

*Before the ball was even tipped, Crispin was singing coach Chris Holtmann’s praises: “I feel like Chris Holtmann could put five high-school players out there and get them to compete at a level that is competitive in the Big Ten. This guy just seems to know what he’s doing and he’s got five guys who have bought into his system, particularly on the defensive end.”

*Tone-setter: first play of the game, Minnesota’s do-everything player, Jordan Murphy, tried to back down Andre Wesson in the paint. Kaleb Wesson stripped the ball from Murphy and Kyle Young got a wide-open dunk off a Keyshawn Woods pass in transition.

*Only 1:12 into the game, we had a lengthy video review that was never explained in the arena and killed the vibe for those in person.

*The hustle plays early were significant. Minnesota had its first two shots challenged at the rim. Young tipped in a Woods missed jumper just by being active.

*With both of them in the starting lineup, Woods brought the ball up and C.J. Jackson played as the off guard.

*Kaleb Wesson was fired up early. He had to be calmed down by his teammates after he was fouled on a left-handed hook shot in the paint.

*Minnesota’s best offense was its transition game. Compared to the Syracuse game, Ohio State did a much better job of keeping guys in front of them.

*The Buckeyes had three turnovers in the first 4:46, and both Woods and Jackson had bad ones. Woods picked up his dribble and double-dribbled, and Jackson just lost the ball on a weak drive in the offensive zone leading to a run-out for the Gophers.

*The longest possession of the season was a thing to behold. Jaedon LeDee kept it going off a Woods missed jumper by drawing a foul on the rebound attempt. Later, his pass to a waiting Duane Washington Jr. at the top of the circle was just a little off target, which led to the shot also being off but the rebound went off two Gophers and out of bounds. Another ball was knocked out of LeDee’s hands and out of bounds. Andre Wesson missed a jumper. Musa Jallow drew a foul on the rebound that was reviewed for a hook-and-hold. Andre Wesson kept the possession alive after a Duane Washington missed drive with a tip-out rebound. Andre Wesson then finished it with a three-point play while drawing a second foul on Murphy. I’ll write an oral history flashback story on this possession a decade from now.

*Jallow’s perimeter shooting was a surprise. He’s done a lot of things this year but shooting the ball with accuracy hasn’t been among them. He hit a deep jumper and a three.

*Woods has given up open looks so that a teammate can take a contested shot on multiple occasions this year, and he did it again against Minnesota.

*I forgot that Young went up against a dunk attempt by Daniel Oturu and forced a jump ball, which awarded possession to the Buckeyes. Impressive play and show of strength against Oturu, who was cocked and ready for the slam.

*Ohio State consistently exploits a backdoor cut from the wing that results in a dunk. It’s often Jallow who is on the receiving end, but it was Young in this game.

*Washington had a pair of awkward drives to the rim that didn’t fall, but he was part of the game-changing run when he finished a left-handed scoop shot off the glass that forced a Minnesota timeout. He’s looked far more confident shooting than driving so far this season.

*After the timeout, Minnesota came out and turned it over on consecutive possessions. Then Young took a charge. Not sure what Richard Pitino drew up, but Minnesota couldn’t execute it.

*As part of the run, Jallow finished a three-on-one break with a slam. Ohio State hadn’t been overly successful when pushing the ball with numbers in transition in the early part of the season, so this looked like progress.

*Ohio State has a tendency to turn the ball over in bunches. Jackson and Woods did it early, and a backcourt violation after a player fell down was followed up by a three-second violation from Andre Wesson.

*Gaudin called it “a herky-jerky first half here in Columbus” with Ohio State leading 28-12 with 6:51 to play, and he wasn’t wrong.

*LeDee took a pair of deep jumpers. One clanged hard off the rim and the other was partially blocked. Still developing that part of his game. He also had a nice recovery when he ran out of options under the rim, finding Jackson for a layup.

*Minnesota missed some wide-open three-pointers. Ohio State challenged some, but the Gophers also just flat-out missed some.

*Crispin lauded Andre Wesson after he set up LeDee for a basket when he was fouled. ”Andre Wesson’s got a great poise to his game. He uses head fakes. He’s not the most athletic guy in the world, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t’ have to be a freak athlete to play this game. You’ve just got to know who you are and do what you do.”

*Jallow is still learning his offensive game even on a night when he contributes like he did. With Minnesota making its only push of the game late in the first half, he got the ball and drove to the basket with a power dribble but picked it up when he was under the basket and in no position to make a play. He then kicked it out for a three-pointer that was short and led to a Minnesota break finished by an alley-oop dunk.

*Andre Wesson’s basket at the end of the half was a smart play. Got the ball at the elbow, gave a head fake, drove and finished through contact for a three-point play.

*First possession of the second half, Minnesota had Jordan Murphy go right at Andre Wesson. He held his ground and forced a tough shot that Murphy missed. Then Woods turned it over in the backcourt with a soft pass at the top of the key.

*Kaleb Wesson’s aggressiveness was obvious in the second half. Against single coverage, he spins, fakes, misses a shot but gets his own rebound and scores. He was fouled twice in the first 95 seconds of the second half. Then he spun left houlder and easily finished. Not sure I’ve seen him spin that way before. Crispin pointed out that Minnesota can’t allow Wesson to catch the ball where he did.

*Young banked a free throw, and there were a lot of sheepish grins among the Buckeyes when it happened.

*Even when Minnesota scored, Crispin was complimentary of the Ohio State defense. Case in point: a wide-open layup: ”Very rarely are you going to find a back-side defender for Ohio State not in position.”

*Ohio State did a better job of finishing in traffic at the rim than it did against Syracuse. Not sure if that was playing with more aggression, Minnesota not being as strong as Syracuse or fatigue.

*Washington had a nice “stop-and-pop,” as Gaudin called it, hitting a transition jumper from the left elbow.

*Up 17 points, Kaleb Wesson was on the perimeter hedging against a ball screen. Then he ran to the block as the play continued and was in position to take a charge. He’s made little defensive plays like this throughout the season that show his quickness is definitely improving.

*On the next possession, he got the ball near the right block and held it for a second before hitting his brother in the opposite corner for a three. Crispin lauded his patience and how he knew to hold the ball for a second, making the defense move and giving his brother space to hit the shot.

*Midway through the second half with the game basically in hand, Woods took an off-balance, contested three in front of the Ohio State bench that he missed. Young kept the play alive with an offensive tip, and Jackson then buried a three from the other wing. The difference in shot preparation on this possession was significant. Not surprisingly, Jackson swished one on the next possession. “I don’t want to call him streaky, but he’s better when he’s making shots,” Crispin said.

*After barely breaking Minnesota’s press, Woods took a leaning jumper at the free-throw line that was blocked. It’s at least the third time this season he’s had a jumper blocked, and this one was also rushed. Coach Chris Holtmann has said he liked Woods’ decision-making abilities in this game, but it’s not hard to see why he didn’t score.

*The Gophers had multiple fouls 85 feet or more from their own basket.

*Crispin, on Kaleb Wesson’s improvement from last year: “He’s more comfortable playing from the outside-in. He slips a lot of screens. He’s making better reads, and his patience with the basketball is much, much improved.”


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