Following the attack that occurred on the Ohio State campus in Columbus, the Buckeyes men’s basketball team took a moment during their Tuesday press conference to reflect on the events, and express their thanks for the University Police officer who responded.
“We got to keep issues off the court, but, I mean, it’s scary,” said OSU junior forward Jae’Sean Tate. “Somebody lost their life yesterday, and more people were injured. It’s terrible but I’m glad that we have police around who responded very quickly, contained the situation before it got even more out of hand.”
While the investigation is ongoing, and students and staff on campus attempt to return to life as usual in Columbus, the Buckeyes will play at No. 6 Virginia on Saturday evening. The Cavaliers are 6-0, and have defeated their opponents by an average of more than 29 points per game.
Virginia already was going to be a stout challenge coming into the game, but Monday’s events might weigh heavily on the minds of those in attendance and on the athletes. Senior forward Marc Loving said the Buckeyes will be looking for focus even after the attacks.
“I know some things that happened yesterday are going to be in our mind during the game,” he said. “Things that happened could have a negative effect on, obviously, the morale on campus and this team. But when we step in this gym, we try to block out all aspects whether it’s the classroom, or it’s any distraction that’s possibly going on and just hone on in the time we have in practice together and just get better.”
Saturday’s contest will be just the second true away game for the Cavaliers. Led by redshirt junior guard Darius Thompson with a 10 points-per-game average, Virginia is coming off an Elite Eight finish in the NCAA tournament.
Last season, Virginia finished with a 29-8 record, and was behind only North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Tate said OSU will be focusing on quicker ball movement in practice to try and overcome the challenge ahead.
“We hold onto the ball a little too long,” he said. “Other than that, you know when we catch the ball we immediately know what we’re going to do with it, not catch it and think about what we’re going to do and allow the defense to set up and get back in the gaps.”
On defense, Virginia is allowing just 41.8 points per game which gives it a +31.5 scoring margin when matched with the team’s average points per game. Combine that with a with a suffocating defense that has picked up 7.7 steals and 5.0 blocks per game, and the Cavaliers are by far the biggest test for OSU so far this year.
Even with the seemingly insurmountable task ahead, OSU coach Thad Matta is ready to see what his team can do.
“I like where this team is,” he said. “I mean, obviously, we’re playing not a really good basketball team, we’re playing a great basketball team. Very, very impressed with Virginia. I’m excited to play them all night just to … you know the game ends and we get a pretty good gauge where we are. I think that we’re making strides in the right direction.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. in Charlottesville, Virginia.