(Photo courtesy Columbus Dispatch. Game information courtesy Ohio State Athletics web site and ESPN.com) 

The Buckeyes (8-3) traveled to LasVegas to confront the #2 team in the nation, the UCLA Bruins. It did not end well. The Buckeyes, despite playing a solid first half, were downed by the Bruins, 86-73.

If you caught JC’s game preview, you’ll notice he ‘went with his feeling‘ and picked Ohio State to win 69-64. Welp, once in a while the crystal skull ball gets clouded.

Back to Saturday’s game…

Overview

The Buckeyes were led by Marc Loving (19 points, 6 rebounds) and Jae’sean Tate (15 points, 2 rebounds) and Kieta Bates-Diop (13 points, 3 rebounds. Although they combined for only 7 points, Micah Potter and Trevor Thompson did combine for 16 of OSU’s 31 rebounds. They also contributed half (3) of OSU’s offensive rebounds. More on that later…

The Bruins were led by four players in double figures; Bryce Alford (20 pts) Aaron Holiday (20), Isaac Hamilton (17)  and TJ Leaf (13). Leaf is a forward, the other three are guards. It would appear that JaQuan Lyle and Kam Williams need to “up” their defense a bit. Particularly since their offense was pretty pathetic.

The Buckeyes played inspired, and impressive defense in the first half, “holding” UCLA to 40 points in the half. The Bruins average 97 points per game, so a 40 point half is pretty decent defense. The defensive effort was exhibited by forcing 12 UCLA turnovers. With UCLA shooting +50%, this defensive effort took 12 points off the board for UCLA. This was commendable work by OSU. Well done.

 

First Half

The first 10 minutes were a thrust-parry deadlock at 28 apiece. Ohio State forced 12 UCLA turnovers, which resulted in 0 UCLA points and 15 OSU points.

However, this was offset by OSU’s indifference to offensive rebounding. The Buckeyes missed 17 shots, but grabbed only 3 offensive rebounds, providing 3 “second chance points. Meanwhile, UCLA missed 14 shots, but had 5 offensive rebounds, resulting in their 6 “second chance points”. Strangely enough was UCLA’s margin going into the locker room, 40-37.

At about the 4-minute mark, UCLA went on a small run to move their margin up to 10 points, 40-30. The Buckeyes responded with  7-0 run to pull within 3 at the half.

It was encouraging to see OSU respond with aggressiveness to close out the half and to possibly set up an early 2nd half surge.

Second Half

Pretty much a UCLA performance, as they out-shot, out rebounded and out-everythinged Ohio State, 46-36 in the half. OSU was 1-6 to start the half while UCLA was 2-4 (and 2 free throws) over the same stretch of three minutes. The Buckeyes book-ended the half by going “0-fer” with field goals over the final four minutes, scoring only 3 points.

 

 

Wrap Up

 

I thought this was an odd game for the Buckeyes. Overall, they shot decently enough from the field (47%), but the subset of 3-pt shooting (21%) was poor.

Look, here’s how I see this loss. It wasn’t due to effort. The players held UCLA to a sub-standard offensive performance, by any metric. Defensive success is built on player effort. The kids played, for a lapse or two, hard enough to win.

The problem was in Thad’s approach of not emphasizing offensive rebounding.  The Buckeyes were outscored 13-7 in 2nd chance points (driven by possessions via offensive rebounding).

Evidently, Thad’s philosophy of not seeking offensive rebounds by pulling the players to their defensive end will minimize opponent fast-break points. Maybe. Meanwhile, by doing so, he is ceding “short-floor” offensive opportunities by not going after missed shots.

Against UCLA, this was especially egregious. The Bruins, averaging almost 97 ppg are going to get their points. They are that good. As an opponent, you have to take steps to improve your offensive efficiency, which begins with more offensive possessions. Against UCLA, by not seeking to extend possessions via offensive rebounding, you are relying on your base, half court defense to limit UCLA’s scoring. It hasn’t happened this year, so far, and it sure as hell didn’t happen on Saturday.

Until Thad changes his approach to be more aggressive on the offensive end regarding rebounding,  look for the Buckeyes to be offensively passive throughout the season.

Next Up

The Buckeyes are back to friendlier environment on Tuesday, December 20th. They host Youngstown State for a 7:00 pm (Eastern) game. It can be seen on ESPN3 and listened to on  97.1.