Buckeyes Follow Up In Grand Style

By Jeff Rapp, January 11th, 2018

The schedule sheet and various websites now indicate the Ohio State men’s basketball team is 14-4 overall, 5-0 in the Big Ten and has won nine of its last 10 games after being whomped by Clemson here in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Meanwhile, the stat sheet from OSU’s 91-69 blowout of Maryland at the Schottenstein Center on Thursday indicates the Buckeyes made 32 of 57 shots (56.1 percent) including 17 of 29 threes (58.6 percent), 10 of 12 free throws (83.3 percent) and assisted 25 of the 32 made baskets.

Andrew Dakich, of all people, hit 3 of 4 bombs and had four assists without a turnover. Jae’Sean Tate was on a triple-double pace at halftime then slowed down a bit, but still managed to log 13 points, six rebounds, six assists and four blocks.

And Keita Bates-Diop is now making this game look simple. Playing completely within the flow of the offense, he calmly connected on 10 of 15 shots and led all scorers with 26 points.

Add in 14 points, four rebounds and six assists from starting point guard C.J. Jackson and eight points apiece from Kaleb Wesson and Kam Williams, and this team appears to be rolling.

Time to rub our eyes yet?

Maryland, by the way, fell to 14-5 overall and 3-3 in league play and is an NCAA Tournament-hopeful team. The Terrapins are dealing with various injuries and a flu bug that has even reached to coach Mark Turgeon – “We’re a mess,” he said – but have played impressive stretches of basketball this season and own a win over Butler, a team that defeated Ohio State.

This was not a visit from The Citadel – but it may as well have been once the Terps proved they weren’t energetic enough to disrupt OSU’s offensive rhythm or fly out on shooters.

“We can’t seem to guard anybody on the road suddenly,” said Turgeon, whose team also was throttled at Michigan State, 91-61, on Jan. 4.

“Diop was a big part of our our scouting report. To give him the kind of looks we gave him is disappointing.”

But Turgeon opened his postgame address lauding the Buckeyes.

“I thought Ohio State was terrific, especially from about the 10-minute mark of the first half,” he said. “They’re playing with a lot of confidence.”

The Buckeyes actually trailed 20-13 when coach Chris Holtmann burned a timeout at the 10:15 mark of the first half and laid into his team. The message was clear: Start showing some grit on defense and get some urgency – only with a sharper delivery.

“Well, what I can say publicly is we’ve got to play harder,” he said. “We have to act like we care a little bit on the defensive end and if you don’t, a team like Maryland with their guard play and their ability, it’s going to be a long night.”

Instead, the results from that point on were nightmarish for the home team.

Ohio State responded with a tidy 9-2 run to tie the game and then added six more unanswered points on a steal and dunk by Tate, a free throw by Wesson and a three-ball from Dakich.

The Buckeyes built the lead to 44-32 at halftime and to as much as 28 (74-46) when Bates-Diop nailed a three and reached his scoring average of 20 points per game.

The game was so well in hand that students near the OSU bench began to chant “We want Joey,” meaning likable end-of-the-bench guard Joey Lane.

Holtmann admitted the coaches were so freaked out about the lack of bodies on the roster in June that they were talking about scouting intramural games on campus. Now we’re talking about laughers against Maryland, a program that swept OSU last year.

Go ahead and rub your eyes again if you need to.

After all, this performance came on the heels of an 80-64 wipeout of No. 1 Michigan State on Sunday during which the Buckeyes hit 7 of 15 threes, committed just six turnovers, ripped off dominating runs in each half and got a career-high 32 points from the 6-7 Bates-Diop.

That was followed by 17 made threes – the second-most in program history and highest figure in Big Ten play. Of the 25 assists, Holtmann, while looking at the box score and shaking his head, said, “I don’t know if I’ve ever had that in a league-play game.”

The first-year OSU coach, however, did not rub his eyes and he didn’t even come close to proclaiming the Buckeyes in the hunt for a league title. Instead, like on Sunday, he was anchored in humility.

“You have to win the games you have a chance to win in this league because we are going to get beat up at sometime,” he said. “That is going to happen. We’re going to get knocked around, and that’s the reality.”