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Youthful Ohio State men’s basketball team ready to open season vs. Mount St. Mary’s

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OSU freshman guard JaQuan Lyle (13) during an exhibition game against Walsh on Nov. 9 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Khalid Moalim | Multimedia Editor

OSU freshman guard JaQuan Lyle (13) during an exhibition game against Walsh on Nov. 9 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Khalid Moalim | Multimedia Editor

After a long offseason, the Ohio State men’s basketball team is ready to begin its regular season at home Sunday against Mount St. Mary’s at 1 p.m.

The youthful Buckeyes, who return only one starter from last season, hope to see improvement from their Nov. 8 exhibition matchup against Walsh University, a 92-82 victory.

“I think the greatest thing that came out of Sunday’s game is our guys believe they didn’t play very well,” OSU coach Thad Matta said. “To a man, they each said we have to get better individually, we have to get better collectively.”

The Mountaineers, who were ranked first in the annual Northeast Conference preseason coaches poll, have only one previous match up against OSU dating back to Nov. 27, 1989, in which the Buckeyes won 102-63.

Matta said the exhibition game against Walsh offered insight to the style of play they will see against Mount St. Mary’s.

“They’ve shown fast paced, they’re not afraid to pull a quick three, run a ton of ball-screens, different types of ball-screens,” Matta said. “I think the way Walsh lived and died by the three the other day is probably as good of preparation as we can get going into this game.”

Improving the defense

Despite a 92-82 victory over Walsh, the Scarlet and Gray were unhappy with their defensive play. Junior forward Marc Loving said it was a big focus area throughout the practice week.

“Defense wasn’t a plus on the film this week. We worked on a lot of defense, transition and different rotations throughout the week,” Loving said. “I feel like from our younger guys all the way up we have a better grasp on where to be in certain situations. It’s just working on it every day to be consistent.”

Matta said the defensive struggles stemmed from poor anticipation and reaction.

“There are three types of people that play. There’s those that watch things happen, those that make things happen and those that wonder what the blank just happened,” Matta said. “We were more in the third category a couple times, you know of understanding what’s going to happen.”

Availability update

The Buckeyes’ starting five might have a different look from the exhibition game as sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate plans to return to the lineup following a sprained ankle.

Tate said it was frustrating to miss the exhibition match-up, but he feels he will be 100 percent by Sunday.

“I just want to be out there with the team. I’m ready to get back out there in practice and Sunday just to try to bring that energy,” Tate said. “We didn’t have as much energy as I would like us to have, so that’s what my key is this Sunday.”

Freshman forward Mickey Mitchell still has yet to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center. Matta said he hopes the issue is resolved soon.

“Obviously I can’t get into the technicalities of it, but we got our fingers crossed and it’s probably taking a little bit longer than we think it should, but you know how that is. We’re not the ones doing it,” Matta said.

Future Buckeyes

The Buckeyes announced the signing of forward Derek Funderburk and center Micah Potter, two recruits from the state of Ohio, on Wednesday.

Matta said that bringing recruiting within the state is a plus.

“The thing I like about these two guys is they have a great appreciation not only for our program, but most importantly the university. That’s something we’re always looking for in recruiting,” Matta said.

Tate, who is also from Ohio, said he has played against Funderburk in the past.

“I’m definitely familiar with Funderburk. Long, lanky and he looks like he can help us when he gets here after he puts on a few pounds. I’m excited to see what he does his senior year and what he can bring to the table,” Tate said.

Both Funderburk and Potter stand at 6-foot-9. That size figures to give Matta options in the future.  

“I think it allows us more of the ability to play bigger, just in terms of do we can we play a stretch four, can we put two bigs out there, a lot of it is always predicated on the defensive end of the floor, but I like those options,” Matta said. “Players find their way to the court and coaches find ways to use them to the best of their abilities.”

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