The first two games of the 2016-17 NCAA season have not been pretty for the Ohio State men’s basketball team. Although the record for the Buckeyes stands at 2-0 so far, OSU coach Thad Matta has been far from pleased with his team’s performance just two weeks into the season. However, the matchup Thursday night against Providence College could be a chance to improve.
On Monday, the Buckeyes met the North Carolina Central Eagles in Columbus. After struggling at times against Navy in Annapolis, Maryland, OSU fans were left questioning the identity of the team.
Sophomore guard JaQuan Lyle has struggled in his starting role so far after receiving praise in the offseason for how far he had come. In two games of action, Lyle is shooting just 33 percent, and is averaging 4.0 points and 2.0 assists per contest. Even more troublesome than the low scoring output, he averages 1.5 turnovers in 17.5 minutes per game, while usually starting at point guard.
Last season the Buckeyes struggled to get out of the gate early, and found themselves battling back to get a lead. It was a problem that OSU was well aware of, and junior guard Jae’Sean Tate said the team must address the issue at some point, but isn’t panicking just yet.
“I wouldn’t say it’s concerning,” he said. “We just got to make sure it’s not a repeat of last year. We can’t be lackadaisical. We got to be the first team to punch the other in the mouth.”
Although OSU was quick out of the gate, and even had a 10-0 run early in the first quarter, the Buckeyes allowed the Eagles to come soaring back, giving up a 14-2 run. When asked what OSU was lacking in the game, Matta responded with “our minds.”
Providence went 22-12 last season, and finished fourth in the Big East. After receiving a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament, the Friars were knocked out by the No. 11 seed Dayton Flyers.
In their first game of the season, the Friars easily ousted the University of Vermont Catamounts 80-58 after leading by just six at halftime. Although the sample size is small, Providence enjoyed an outstanding effort from junior transfer and forward Emmitt Holt.
Holt picked up 22 points in his debut with the team, shooting a solid 67 percent. Junior guard Kyron Cartwright had a career-high 12 assists.
Providence provides an interesting test for OSU, as the Friars are a solid team that could easily earn another high seed in the NCAA tournament at the end of the year. But, Matta said he needs to see more out of his players if the team wants to stay undefeated.
“We did some things that were so uncharacteristic … we never had that flow,” Matta said. “We got work to do.”
That “work” he talks about includes cutting turnovers, operating a smoother offense and hustling to the ball. All three elements of OSU’s game that have been missing can be easily corrected with some extra time and preparation. But if the Buckeyes put forth another disappointing effort, Tate might be apologizing again to Buckeye Nation.