The Ohio State men’s basketball team moved up two spots to No. 12 in the Associated Press poll Sunday despite losing its first game of the year last week.
OSU coach Thad Matta said he is hoping that his team will continue to improve each game.
Seeming to do so are the young Buckeyes such as freshman guard D’Angelo Russell who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Monday.
Matta said that the young players in particular have stood out in the early part of this season.
“These guys are just out here playing. They are not trying to calculate or figure anything, worried about this or that. They are just playing basketball,” Matta said Tuesday. “When all of our guys play that (way) they appear to be better. That is how this team has to play that is when we play our best basketball.”
Not only have the young players been contributing early on in the season, they are playing almost as many minutes as the seniors on the team.
Russell, along with redshirt-freshman guard Kam Williams, and freshman forwards Jae’Sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop combined are averaging 19.9 minutes per game while the rest of the Buckeyes are averaging 20.45.
Tate said Tuesday that Matta told the young players they would be given an opportunity to contribute, and added he is just trying to take advantage.
“Coach told us coming in that we had a special class. It’s a young team still, even with the seniors. In practice, we keep showing coach that we can play those minutes.
No matter what their position or year, Matta said all players need to step up as the season progresses, and the production starts with the coaches.
“We owe it to our guys to bring the best out of them regardless of what class they are in,” Matta said. “I have never really bought the term ‘gamer,’ so you have to show us (coaches) in practice what you are capable of doing.”
Senior center Amir Williams said Tuesday that the upperclassmen are not feeling sorry for themselves despite sharing a significant amount of playing time with the freshmen and added he feels they all need to come together, especially on the floor.
“I feel like we can definitely be playing better as a team,” Amir Williams said. “We got a couple guys who are just trying to get themselves together still on the offensive end and defensive end.”
Wednesday, the Buckeyes are set to take on High Point University (6-2) which is tied for the early lead in the Big South Conference standings.
Despite not being a power conference team, Matta said he expects a challenge from the Panthers.
“I view this team as a team you could see in March in the NCAA tournament winning their conference,” he said. “(They have) a transfer we played against from South Carolina. I think our guys…respect the fact that they’ve got to battle.”
The guard Matta referenced, Panther redshirt-senior Brian Richardson, played against the Buckeyes as a freshman member of the Gamecocks on Dec. 17, 2011, a game OSU won, 74-66.
While Richardson only appeared in that game for three minutes without scoring a point, the High Point guard is now averaging 11.1 points per game as a redshirt-senior for the Panthers.
The Panthers are led by redshirt-junior forward John Brown who is averaging 19.6 points per game to go along with 5.6 rebounds per game.
The Buckeyes and Panthers are set to tip off Wednesday at 7 p.m. from the Schottenstein Center.