Michael Arace | It's early, but this Ohio State basketball team looks special

Michael Arace
Ohio State forward Andre Wesson drives to the basket against Penn State defender Seth Lundy. [Maddie Schroeder/Dispatch]

Ohio State hasn't done anything in men's basketball yet, and among the things it hasn't done is lose. The Buckeyes (9-0) are ranked No. 6 in the country, and after their thumping, 106-74 victory over Penn State at Value City Arena on Saturday, they are poised to crack the top five.

Ken Pomeroy, who runs the stat-crunching college basketball website, lifted the Buckeyes to No. 1 in the land before the sun set Saturday. Imagine that. Advanced metrics!

As coach Chris Holtmann often says, the season is long and there are bound to be ebbs as well as flows. To this point, Ohio State has played but one road game. Is there an ebb coming against No. 8 Kentucky in Las Vegas on Dec. 21? Against West Virginia in Cleveland on the 29th? (You know Huggy Bear would love to taste some Scarlet blood.)

What happens when the Buckeyes hit the iron of the Big Ten season Jan. 7, when they visit College Park to play third-ranked Maryland?

The Terrapins have legitimate national championship aspirations. Does Ohio State dare to dream? This much can be said right now: These Buckeyes have a chance to be a special team.

Ohio State's man-to-man defense is galvanized. It is particularly hard on the opponents' leading scorer: Penn State's Lamar Stevens fouled out, and he capped his day with a Class A technical (unsportsmanlike conduct) with 13:26 remaining in the second half.

Ohio State's offense is manifold. It is breathtaking when CJ Walker, D.J. Carton and/or Luther Muhammad are sorting out a fast break. It is lethal when Duane Washington Jr., who has a little Dell Curry in him, is open behind the three-point arc. It has depth and grit and athleticism with Andre Wesson and Kyle Young.

It turns into a symphony with Kaleb Wesson. This is a team that doesn't care who scores, and Kaleb Wesson gives it direction within and without the lane.

Depending on the defense being deployed against the Buckeyes, Holtmann can use K. Wesson to run his half-court offense through the low post or the high post. Wesson can back the ball in from the blocks, or pick and roll from the elbows, or pick and pop from long range.

Double-team him down low and he's going to find an open shooter. Leave him open up high and he might do exactly what he did Saturday.

“He was averaging one and a half (made three-pointers),” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “We wanted to see him make one or two before we had to adjust. Obviously, he was feeling it.”

Wesson was 4 of 6 from three-point range. He finished with 28 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal. He also had a technical foul, called for his Shaq-like flourish on the first dunk of the second half. Send it in, Jerome.

“It feels special,” Wesson said. “You've got guys that you love out there being successful. You see the bench going crazy when guys are scoring, and that's just love.”

Holtmann said, “What makes Kaleb different and special is his ability to play out on the perimeter, to play through him some as a passer in the high post or outside the three to pick and pop with him. That's his strength. That's who he is as a player. He's unique in that sense. It's not always easy to play bully ball with some of the teams we play consistently. That's why we try to move him around, because of his talent.”

Also, Holtmann said, “Tremendous passer.”

Wesson shed 50 pounds, in part to show NBA scouts that he will be able to defend off ball screens. Less to love is more to love with this group, which can aspire to great things as long as it remains selfless.


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