Buckeyes need to give Wesson more help

Adam Jardy
The Buckeyes' offense tends to become stagnant when leading scorer Kaleb Wesson isn't on the floor. [Samantha Madar/Dispatch]

As Ohio State has resumed Big Ten play, Kaleb Wesson has continued his march toward becoming an all-conference men's basketball player with prolific performances against Michigan State and Rutgers.

It hasn’t been enough, though, to keep the Buckeyes from taking consecutive losses entering a game Saturday at Iowa. To prevent a third straight loss, they are going to need more out of Wesson’s supporting cast.

“You don’t have to be a professional scout to understand we’re a different team without him in the game,” coach Chris Holtmann said Friday. “We’ve got to continue to hopefully get some other guys while they’re in to play differently and more effectively when he’s out.”

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The declining production has been across the board and partly the result of a young team acclimating to notoriously detailed Big Ten scouting. That has been an adjustment, freshman Duane Washington Jr. said, but Holtmann pointed out that the Buckeyes have equally detailed scouting on their opponents.

“Definitely it’s been tougher, but you’ve still got to find a way to pull it out and keep competing,” Washington said.

It will need to be a collective effort. Graduate transfer Keyshawn Woods was shooting 45.6 percent from the field and averaging 8.4 points through the first 13 games, but he is 2 of 10 with seven total points since Big Ten play resumed. Six of those shot attempts have been three-pointers, and he has made just one.

His backcourt mate, senior C.J. Jackson, has shot 34.8 percent (8 of 23) from the field and 30.8 percent (4 of 13) from three-point range after shooting 41.7 and 41.3 percent, respectively, in the first 13 games. Junior forward Andre Wesson, too, has struggled to make shots, going 4 of 12 (33.3 percent) in the two losses compared with a 45.2 percent start to the year. On Friday, he agreed that a few guys need to see some shots go in to start rebuilding confidence.

“That’s definitely part of the problem is shots haven’t been falling,” he said. “I think it’s more just the flow of the game changes when Kaleb’s out of the game. We don’t have that inside presence or we’re not trying to have an inside presence. It just changes, and that’s something we’ve got to figure out.”

Defensively, the Buckeyes have struggled with some perimeter offenses. Freshman Luther Muhammad has had long stretches where he has struggled to contain the likes of Michigan State’s Cassius Winston and Rutgers’ Geo Baker, with the latter making a contested jumper to set the final score in the 64-61 loss on Wednesday.

The only rotation player with a positive plus-minus rating during those two games is Kaleb Wesson, at plus-2. He said the key going forward is to keep everyone on the same page.

“We have to stay on the right path,” Wesson said. “We can’t have guys pointing fingers, we can’t have guys saying, ‘I’ve got to do this (or that).’ Everybody has to stay connected in the locker room and keep everything in the locker room.”


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