Kaleb Wesson hopes to get back into rhythm for Ohio State

Adam Jardy
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann wants Kaleb Wesson to be more aggressive offensively. [Maddie Schroeder/Dispatch]

With the Ohio State men's basketball team having turned the ball over on each of its first two possessions against West Virginia on Sunday, Kaleb Wesson started the third by accepting a pass near the top of the circle.

The junior center, showing off his expanded repertoire that this season includes an outside game, faked a shot, put the ball on the floor and tried to drive his way through open space and toward the basket.

It worked until he got to the elbow, where his feet gave way and he slipped to the ground for a traveling violation.

It was one of four turnovers from Wesson in Sunday's 67-59 loss in Cleveland, and illustrated what the Buckeyes' leading scorer and rebounder called an “in-between” type of game for him.

Wesson finished with a team-high 17 points, but 10 of them came from the free-throw line. He shot only 3 of 11 from the field, numbers that only tell part of the story.

On one possession, Wesson might pass up an open three-pointer and instead force a pass to a well-defended teammate. Then, on the next, he might realize he should have shot the ball on the previous trip and then force an attempt that wasn't in the flow of the offense.

Wesson wasn't alone in his troubles, and it helped explain how the Buckeyes wound up with 22 turnovers and only five second-half baskets. But as the team's primary go-to player, Wesson's struggles were pronounced.

“At times, yeah, but that's basketball,” he said when asked if he had felt indecisive and out of sorts throughout the game.

“You're going to have times where you see shots that you like that you don't take and then you find it again and you're going to take that shot but you might miss it and you've got to take the next one.”

Coach Chris Holtmann has routinely praised Wesson for his basketball IQ and passing abilities throughout the season. Still, he wants the junior to hunt his own shot more.

“We've got to continue to get through to him the importance of (his shots),” he said. “He's such an unselfish player, but I thought in the post he over-passed a few times when we wanted him to be more aggressive.”

Playing on an NBA court, the Buckeyes frequently found themselves shooting or spotting up beyond the deeper line than the college one. It added to the overall discomfort that comes with playing a high-pressure, physical defense such as the Mountaineers deploy.

The game and its style also were a reminder of what lies ahead with the resumption of Big Ten play. Wesson's overall unease came against a West Virginia team that, physically, looks every bit like teams the Buckeyes will regularly face throughout the conference.

Reflecting on nonconference wins against Villanova and North Carolina, Wesson pointed out how the Wildcats employed an undersized lineup while the Tar Heels lost a primary frontcourt player to injury during the first half. The Mountaineers, he said, were the biggest team he's faced this season.

“I don't think it changed (my approach),” he said. “I think it was more just me. I've got to watch film and get better (with) shot selection, turnovers, trying to force passes in there that weren't there. Just little things I've got to watch on tape.”


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