For the second straight game, the Ohio State men’s basketball team (2-2) was drubbed by a mid-major program.
After falling to Louisiana Tech (4-0) 82-74 at the Schottenstein Center on Tuesday night, coach Thad Matta’s squad is left searching for answers.
“I think this team has to find itself,” Matta said. “I think that we have to look at our weaknesses, admit that we have them and find ways to correct them.”
Those weaknesses, unmasked within minutes of the tipoff, have hindered this unripe, youthful team.
Its first few offensive possessions, predictably, ended in a turnover and a missed free throw.
“We’ve got to stop trying to make the big play and just make the right play,” sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate said. “That’s where a lot of turnovers come from. We’ve just got to play a smarter game. Free throws are all mental. We’ve got to get up there and think we’re going to make it, and we’ll make it. We work too hard on our free throws to miss like that.”
Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech went on a 7-0 run to open the game and never looked back. It never trailed throughout the course of 40 minutes.
The Bulldogs, led by senior guard Alex Hamilton — who scored a team-high 24 points — found their stroke from behind the arc, and it started early on.
Spacing the floor, knocking down threes and beating the Buckeyes to loose balls, Louisiana Tech outpaced OSU.
This time around, a lack of energy or toughness wasn’t the issue; offensive consistency was.
“We can’t relax,” Tate, who registered a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, said. “It felt like we relaxed when we tied it up. We just have to learn for the remainder of the year to keep the foot on the pedal. We have to keep those runs going and at the defensive end dig even deeper.”
Newly minted starting center, freshman Daniel Giddens, contributed eight rebounds and four blocks, while freshman guard Austin Grandstaff added nine points, shooting 60 percent from the 3-point line. The duo helped the Buckeyes surge right before the half to cut Louisiana Tech’s lead to 42-38.
“I thought Daniel was pretty good tonight,” Matta said. “He’s one guy that you can look out there on the floor and you know who he’s playing for. You know how important (the game is to him) — the passion.”
The game’s defining moment came with 11:26 left in the second half.
Down 55-54, Marc Loving – who scored a game-high 25 points – went to the free throw line with a chance to give OSU its first lead of the night.
The junior forward missed one, then Louisiana Tech pushed the ball, hit a corner three and took the energy right out of the area.
It was a common occurrence.
Every time OSU gained momentum, the Bulldogs killed it with a timely three or galvanizing slam dunk.
“It definitely gets us down when we try to work on it,” sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop said. “We’ve got to get down on turnovers and make more free throws.”
As a team, OSU missed 10 free throws, turned the ball over 14 times and a seasoned, well-balanced and aggressive Louisiana Tech team made it pay for every mental mistake it made.
Following the loss, OSU is scheduled to face Memphis on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Miami. Matta, however, is not looking ahead to the Tigers.
“I need to worry about us,” he said, “more than I need to worry about them.”