Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta notched his 300th win as the Buckeyes defeated Mount St. Mary’s 76-54 in the team’s first game of the season.
Matta, who is in his 12th season with the team, became OSU’s all-time winningest coach during last season’s Big Ten tournament. His OSU teams now have a record of 300-94.
“I’ve always said that I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to be here at Ohio State,” Matta said. “It goes back to (Alex Haley’s) old saying, ‘When you see a turtle on the fence post, you know it didn’t get there by itself.’ That’s definitely me on that fence post.”
Sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate said Matta is deserving of his record.
“That’s just another stat to add to his résumé, he’s a wonderful coach, he’s a wonderful guy and hopefully we have many to come this year,” Tate said.
Tate, who missed the Buckeyes’ exhibition game against Walsh with a sprained ankle, helped lead the Buckeyes to victory with an impressive offensive showing. His 21 points were one shy of tying his career-high, and his two 3-point field goals nearly equaled his season total from his freshman campaign (three).
“It definitely boosts my confidence. I’m still not where I want to be, so I have to continue to work, I can’t rest on that,” Tate said.
Matta said as a coach it was rewarding to see Tate’s hard work pay off.
“Jae’Sean was good. It was so exciting when he let his first three go, to see it go down. I’ve seen that kid, how diligent he’s been in terms of his work ethic and developing that,” Matta said.
Two of the more veteran players on the roster, junior forward Marc Loving and sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop, led the team in minutes with 35 and 38, respectively, but it was freshman center/forward Daniel Giddens who made one of the biggest impacts of the afternoon.
The 6-foot-9 Mableton, Georgia, native made his presence known with 11 points in 26 minutes of hard play.
“For myself individually, I just have to build on what I did today and just want to make this season a successful one,” Giddens said.
Matta said he was impressed with Giddens’ play.
“Daniel was everywhere. He was showing his chest, helping, getting back to his man,” Matta said. “The thing I love about Daniel is that effort is never going to be a problem for him. He’s a kid who cares, he is starving for extra work, he’s starving for finding ways to improve his game.”
Giddens appeared to be calm on the court, but the freshman said he was “freaking out” internally.
“I’m not going to lie, I was nervous. I’m still nervous. This is new to me,” Giddens said.
Other freshmen members of the Scarlet and Gray also made their presences known. Guard JaQuan Lyle put up 12 points, the third-highest of the team, and guard A.J. Harris came off the bench, showing off his publicized speed and energy. Meanwhile, guard Austin Grandstaff nailed a 3-point attempt, his first and only shot of his young career.
The Buckeyes started the game strong going into the half with a 42-21 lead and a team field-goal percentage of 56.3 percent. The Mountaineers tried to mount a comeback in the second half, at one point cutting the deficit to 13 points.
“I painted the picture at halftime, I said this is what could happen and it did. We got a little bit complacent,” Matta said. “We didn’t have the pace we needed in the second half.”
Turnovers were an issue for the Buckeyes throughout the game, something Tate said will get better as the season goes along.
“Having such a young team, being the first game I think that played a role in that. With two freshman point guards and so many young guys, we’ll mature as the season goes on,” Tate said.
Matta said the turnovers were due to not making the simple play, and there’s still a lot of teaching needed for a young Buckeye team that has games both Tuesday and Friday.
“I just told them after the game, ‘You guys want to play in the NBA? Well, you’ve got an NBA schedule this week,’” Matta said. “We’ve got to prepare for Grambling, but we also got to look at what we need to get better at.”
The Buckeyes are set to take the court again at the Schottenstein Center on Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Grambling State.