Lethargic Buckeyes Wake Up In Time, Dump Miami

By Jeff Rapp, December 30th, 2017

After his Buckeyes held on for a sometimes uninspired 72-59 win over Miami (Ohio) on Saturday afternoon, Chris Holtmann opened his postgame by intimating his team didn’t heed his weeklong warnings.

But, after, a pause, the first-year Ohio State head coach, decided to accentuate the positive, developments such as …

• Forward Keita Bates-Diop managing to play through a rough shooting day and log 19 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots.
• Point guard C.J. Jackson looking more comfortable in the offense and more tuned in, allowing him to record 16 points and six assists compared to just three turnovers.
• The Buckeyes being a little more selective on three-point attempts and hitting 8 of 20 (40.0 percent) compared to Miami’s 9-for-33 showing (27.3 percent).
• Guard Kam Williams taking advantage of the attention the RedHawks paid Kaleb Wesson inside and adding 15 points, a dozen of them in the second half. Some of Williams’ baskets came off of ball fakes and floaters or pull-ups along the baseline.

“I know that the mid-range area is a lost art and I also know that teams are going to play me for my three-point shots, so I needed to get more moves in my bag,” said the senior. “I needed to be open for the mid-range with step backs, crossovers and things of that nature.”

Williams’ emergence – he reached double figures in points for just the fifth time this season – was well-timed considering the Buckeyes found themselves in a dogfight in the second half. They were leading just 57-54 with six minutes to play when Jackson hit a timely three. Moments later, he drew an offensive foul and found Williams alone in the corner on the ensuing possession, leading to another three-ball and 63-54 lead.

It eventually became a 10-0 run, which helped the Buckeyes put away the Redhawks (7-6).

“It was a type of game that was a grind and there’s going to be some other games like that moving forward,” Holtmann said. “The challenge for us is to really improve on some areas that we weren’t really good in today.

“I thought that we had some missed defensive assignments. We just did not play with enough assertiveness.”

The holiday break, MAC opponent, brutally cold conditions outside and noon start time may be somewhat to blame for the lethargy the Buckeyes showed at times, but they did enough to improve to 11-4 overall and 9-4 in the nonconference portion of the season.

They’ll head back into Big Ten with a 2-0 league record and some slightly renewed confidence after being wiped away by an 86-72 score by North Carolina in New Orleans on Dec. 23. OSU’s other losses have against Gonzaga, Clemson and Butler – Holtmann’s previous place of employment – in overtime.

Both Miami and OSU opened the game making just 2 of 12 shots. The RedHawks started the second stanza 1 of 11, which allowed the Buckeyes to forge a 17-point lead. The visitors fought back, however, as nifty point guard Darrian Ringo created some scoring plays, freshman guard Nike Sibande threw down a nasty one-handed dunk and big man (6-8, 275) Bam Bowman continued to stun OSU by making top-of-the-key threes.

Ringo led Miami with 16 points, eights assists and four steals. Bowman finished 5 of 7 from deep and scored 15 points. Sibande added 14.

Jae’Sean Tate started for OSU despite a slight sprain in his left shoulder, an injury he suffered in practice. Tate finished with 11 points and five rebounds, and he also put the exclamation point on the win with a late baseline drive and flush that brought the OSU bench and many in the crowd of 15,131 to its feet.

Ohio State has won seven of the last eight meetings with the RedHawks including the last four.

The Buckeyes next head to Iowa City to face Iowa on Thursday night (7 p.m. Eastern, ESPNU).