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Buckeye men’s basketball looks to improve new-look defense against Camels

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OSU sophomore forward Marc Loving (2) goes up to the rim during a Nov. 18 game against Marquette at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 74-63.  Credit: Muyao Shen / Lantern photographer

OSU sophomore forward Marc Loving (2) goes up to the rim during a Nov. 18 game against Marquette at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 74-63.
Credit: Muyao Shen / Lantern photographer

While the competition might not be as strong for the Ohio State men’s basketball team early on, the Buckeyes are looking to work on the changes that have come with a new season.

The Buckeyes are working four freshmen into a lineup that has just three regular season basketball games under its belt.

With a game against Campbell looming Wednesday night, OSU coach Thad Matta said he wants to see his team improve on one particular thing.

“Movement defensively, the reads of where we are supposed to go. I think that is probably the biggest thing we took out of Sunday night’s game,” Matta said Tuesday. “We did a lot of good things but we are trying to get our guys to understand that when we do what we are supposed to do we are a lot better than when we try to shortcut stuff.”

One of the things that the Buckeyes are still getting used to on the defensive side of the ball is a newly implemented zone scheme. In the past, OSU had primarily run a man-to-man defense, and picking up the zone system was something that senior center Trey McDonald said was tough to understand at first.

“It was an adjustment at first for a lot of us,” McDonald said Tuesday. “But I think we just all fell in love with it and we just bought in to owning our spots and learning our spots to the best of our abilities.”

The Buckeyes seem to have figured the defense out quickly as they are holding their opponents to just 55.3 points per game while averaging 90.7 themselves, good for 11th best in the country.

With the competition not being as stiff in the first three games, the Buckeyes have been able to start implementing their new defense and working out the kinks.

McDonald said that the new zone defense specifically puts a new stress on the big men in the paint, something he added he is taking in stride.

“He (Matta) made a point to all the bigs to go out there, protect the middle in our zone,” McDonald said. “For me those are the things that, playing this position, things that you should do. It is just something that comes natural.”

McDonald’s counterpart at the center position, senior Amir Williams, is set to return to the floor Wednesday night against Campbell, Matta said. Williams sat out Sunday’s 106-48 win over Sacred Heart with soreness in his knee.

“He is doing good. He is going to practice today,” Matta said Tuesday. “We were off yesterday. He has been running, doing skill instruction, those type of things. Planning on playing him tomorrow night.”

With Williams coming back from the injury, and freshman forward Jae’Sean Tate and redshirt-senior Anthony Lee added to the mix this season, McDonald said the competition for minutes has made things more exciting around the Schottenstein Center.

“It does make for a lot more fun in practice than just, me and him (Amir) going at it every day,” McDonald said. “It is a lot more different looks, sizes to play against. That really helped a lot of us, all of us actually.”

With the mix of young and old players like Tate and McDonald, Matta said he can’t quite gauge how good the 2014-15 Buckeyes can be this early in the season.

“I have asked myself that question. Where I think this team is, where I think this team can be, I don’t have that sense yet. I go back to the Marquette game, we had opportunities in the first half to really extend and we didn’t do it and we go up seven at halftime,” Matta said. “Guys are still kind of feeling their way through. I think once we get a level of consistency I will probably be able to be able to answer that question better.”

The Buckeyes are set to take on the Campbell Camels on Wednesday at the Schottenstein Center. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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