Woods-Jackson combo gives OSU options in backcourt

Adam Jardy
The addition of Keyshawn Woods, right, to the Ohio State backcourt has allowed fellow guard C.J. Jackson to play off the ball at times, with Woods taking on the ball-handling duties. [Tyler Schank]

There came a point last Saturday against UCLA when Keyshawn Woods gave a message to C.J. Jackson on the court at Chicago’s United Center.

“I told him, ‘You just go, and I’ll take the ball,’ ” Woods said.

Recruited and signed by Ohio State as a men’s basketball graduate transfer, Woods came from Wake Forest to provide depth and experience in the backcourt. A senior, Jackson was the incumbent point guard, the returning leader in both points and assists. The two were expected to complement each other, with Woods allowing Jackson to spend more time at his preferred spot off the ball at shooting guard.

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They certainly have done that. But most recently, they did so by recognizing who was doing what and adjusting their roles accordingly. Against the Bruins, Jackson scored 18 of his 22 points in the final 9:06 to help keep UCLA at arm’s length. Woods passed out a career-high 10 assists while not committing a turnover. Of his six assists in the second half, four went to Jackson.

“I think we’re getting better as the season goes on,” Woods said of his relationship with Jackson. “At any time we’ll tell each other, ‘You get the ball and be the 1,’ or I’ll tell him, ‘You’ve got it.’ ”

Holtmann cited Woods’ distribution as being as responsible for the win as anything else, because it allowed Jackson to play off the ball. Since scoring 19 points in the loss to Syracuse, Jackson had averaged only 10.0 points during a four-game stretch leading into the UCLA game, but he had 22 assists against eight turnovers.

When they’re on the court together, which is often, Holtmann said Woods is typically as close to a true point guard as one exists in the Ohio State offense.

“Keyshawn will probably handle the ball more (than C.J.),” Holtmann said. “They have to figure that out. I do think that’s a role they’ll move more into as we keep playing. I think we could see that more and more.”

Against Syracuse’s zone, Woods struggled — as did most of his teammates — and finished with six points and two assists on only four shots. When the Bruins deployed their zone against the Buckeyes, it wasn’t as effective, partially because few teams are as good at playing zone as the Orange.

It also was because Woods, after studying the film from that loss, recognized that he needed to be more aggressive in seeking out the seams in the zone.

“He can get a little more passive than we like at times,” Holtmann said. “I just think he’s got to trust his instincts and stay aggressive and know we need him to do it all. He’s got a terrific feel for the game. He’s got to continue to be a facilitator for us and also score the ball.”

Sophomore center Kaleb Wesson, named Big Ten player of the week on Monday for the first time, cited Woods for helping power his recent success.

“Key’s a big weapon in our offense so everybody’s focused on him,” he said. “When he’s finding people and everybody’s making shots, it’s very difficult for teams to guard (all of us).”


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