(Image courtesy ohiostatebuckeyes.com, game information courtesy ohiostatebuckeyes.com, ESPN.com, stats courtesy of teamrankings.com)

The Buckeyes (13-4, 4-0) had a somewhat improbable win over soon-to-be former #1 Michigan State (15-2, 3-1) 80-64 in VCA on Sunday afternoon. The Spartans were on a 14 game winning streak and were 6 1/2 point favorites by the touts going into Sunday’s game.

The Spartans jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the first 3 ½ minutes, but the Buckeyes battled back and the margin for either team hovered in the 2-4 point range for the next 15 minutes. With the score tied at 29-all at the 1:14 mark, all hell broke loose. The Buckeyes reeled off: dunk (KBD), layup (Jae’Sean), 3-pt’r (Kam), 2 FTs (KBD, again) and a Dakich 3-pt prayer at the buzzer to open a 41-29 lead.

Ohio State picked it up to start the second half with a Kam Williams back-door dunk 11 seconds into the stanza. The Buckeyes would make their first seven (7)  FG attempts in the 2nd half  to suffocate MSU.

When OSU finally missed a shot (a layup of all things) six minutes in the half, OSU had a 61-40 lead. Ohio State scored its last point via a free throw by Jae’Sean Tate with :53 remaining and MSU’s Gavin Schilling slammed a dunk with :37 to close out the scoring at 80-64 for the Good Guys.

The Buckeyes were led by a career- high performance by Kieta Bates-Diop (32 points), C.J. Jackson (14),  Jae’Sean Tate (13). Kam Williams (10).  KBD also led the Buckeyes in rebounds with 7.  Kaleb Wesson led OSU in assists with 5.

The Spartans were was led by Miles Bridges (17 points), Joshua Langford (17), Cassius Winston (12) and Jarren Jackson, Jr (11). Nick Ward led the Spartans with a game high 10 rebounds.

Ohio State shot 52% from the field (31-59), 47% (7-15) from 3-point range and a dismal 65% from the foul line (11-17).

Michigan State shot 39% from the field (23-59), 28% from 3-point range (7-15) and 85% (11-13) from the foul line.

Michigan State entered the game leading the nation in field goal percentage at 53%. Clearly, this was a case of the Buckeyes administering MSU’s medication to them. Yum.

What Went Right

The defensive effort, and results, were outstanding. Michigan State entered that game as the best shooting team in the nation. Ohio State wasn’t fazed at all. I’m sure the players were exhausted after the game, but this was an excellent teaching point for Coach Holtmann. With a full effort, for forty minutes, this team can beat anyone.

Ohio State executed a “yin and yang” approach to a high level. In the first half, their defense held MSU to  33% shooting and 29 points. The 29 points in the first half was the 3rd lowest to date for MSU and the 64 total points was also the 3rd lowest this season. In the second half, Ohio State’s efficient offense (64% shooting) kept MSU at bay. In fact, the Buckeyes actually outscored the Spartans 39-35 in the second half.

Their ball handling was stellar. The 15 assists were indicative of brisk, alert ball movement, my heart’s cockles were warmed by the 6 turnovers. This was outstanding ball handling.

What Didn’t

When you thoroughly handle the #1 team in the country, there wasn’t much that went wrong. However, I did notice three things that didn’t look too good.

The free throw shooting was abysmal at 65%.  Ohio State normally cans +72% of their free throws, good for 131st (of 351 teams per teamrankings.com). Their 64.7% performance against MSU would have them at 323rd spot. This was probably (hopefully) a one-off game, but points are hard to come by in conference play, so this needs some attention.

As you’d imagine, against Michigan State, the rebounding took a hit. The Buckeyes were out-rebounded by Miami 38-33. Ohio State was credited for only 6 offensive rebounds, 2 of which were “team” rebounds” where a MSU player lost control of a potential defensive rebound.

Kaleb Wesson’s shot didn’t look right. Although he shot a decent 4-9 (44%) he missed several point blank shots. It looked like he was trying to “finesse” the shot instead of making the shot. What I mean is he would shoot a short jumper aiming at the rim; it tended to bounce off the rim, or once, missing it completely. I think he’d be better served on those short jumpers to shoot the bank shot.

That’s enough for now.

Other…

  • If Chris Holtmann gets tires of coaching, he can have a successful career in sales/motivational speaking. He had the Buckeyes focused and playing at a high energy level all game.
  • Andrew Dakich has been a breath if fresh air for the guard-strapped Buckeyes this season. He had a solid game (3 assists, 1 rebound, 1 turnover) but his three-pointer from German Village at the first half buzzer capped a 12-0 run to give the Buckeyes a 41-29 lead. It was certainly a crowd-pleaser.
  • Getting back to the free throws, briefly. Ohio State had only three (3) players go to the FT line against Michigan State. Kaleb Wesson (0-1) [small data point of one attempt], Kieta Bates-Diop (6-7) and Jae’Sean Tate (5-9).
  • Finally, I thought the plan to defend MSU’s Nick Ward was well thought out and executed.it was a good plan and well executed. Ward entered the game averaging over 15 points per game, the Spartans’ second leading scorer. Double teams from the weak side and solid defensive rotation limited Ward to 0-1 from the field and 3 points, all from the foul line. Again, entering the game, Ward was averaging over 8 shots per game and making an astounding 72% of them.

Up Next

The Buckeyes host Maryland this Thursday, January 11th at the VCA. The tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET. It can be seen on ESPN2 and/or you can listen to it on 97.1.

Maryland (14-4, 3-2) is a very young team, but coach Mark Turgeon has them playing solid, “Maryland” basketball. They are averaging 78 points per game while allowing 65 ppg.  They average 39 rebounds and 15 turnovers per game. For comparison, the Buckeyes are scoring 79 and allowing 68. Ohio State averages 37 rebounds and 13 turnovers per game.

The Terrapins have three players that average double figures scoring per game. They are Anthony Cowan (16.2), Kevin Huerter (14.1) and Bruno Fernando (11.0). Justin Jackson leads Maryland in rebounding with 8.1 per game. Cowan, Huerter and Jackson are sophomores, Fernando is a freshman. I told you they were young.

Ohio State has four players averaging double figures; Kieta Bates-Diop (20.0), C.J. Jackson (13.5), Jae’Sean Tate (12.9),  and Kaleb Wesson (11.5). KBD also leads the Buckeyes in rebounds with 8.8 per game.