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Three takeaways: OSU men’s basketball still working to improve

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The Ohio State men's basketball team gathers together after a foul during its exhibition match-up against Walsh on Nov. 6. The Buckeyes won 85-67. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo Editor

The Ohio State men’s basketball team gathers together after a foul during its exhibition match-up against Walsh on Nov. 6. The Buckeyes won 85-67. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo Editor

It’s basketball season once again in Columbus. The Ohio State men’s basketball team took the court for the first time Sunday afternoon as they faced off with the Walsh University Cavaliers. In the first action of the season, the Buckeyes overpowered the Division II opponent 85-67 off of a 14-point performance by sophomore guard JaQuan Lyle.

Overall, the first-half performances on both sides could be called sloppy at best. Both teams combined for 15 turnovers and 28 personal fouls during the opening period, and it seemed like neither team was particular ready to run an offense.

Midway through the second half, OSU got the ball rolling with solid play on both sides of the ball, outscoring Walsh 45-35 after halftime. The Buckeyes had the game wrapped up midway through the second.

Highlighted by players smiling after big plays and laughing off mistakes, including a missed dunk by sophomore guard C.J. Jackson, OSU rolled to an 18-point victory. After the game, the transfer student from Eastern Florida State said it would not happen again, but his fellow first-year OSU players at the podium seemed to find humor in his embarrassment.

In the lighthearted contest that ended up going the Buckeyes’ way, here are three takeaways from the first OSU men’s basketball game in Value City Arena this season.

Things are still a bit rusty

It should have been expected by most that the first action on the court in 2016 was going to be far from pretty. In the first 10 minutes, those expectations came true.

OSU was hesitant running the court in the opening minutes of the scrimmage, struggling to formulate an offense and analyze the defensive sets that Walsh was throwing at it. OSU also committed far too many fouls to slow the Cavaliers’ offensive attack, which caused Buckeyes coach Thad Matta to be slightly displeased with his team’s performance.

“We talked about it at halftime,” he said. “We couldn’t get a run going because of the fouls. They were committable fouls. How many times we fouled shooters … we weren’t as smart as we needed to be in terms of our defense.”

There is still time to make the team regular-season ready, but OSU can’t afford to struggle with the same kind of issues that plagued the team last year.

First-year players will have an impact

The lineup is far from certain for OSU after a solid scrimmage performance turned in by freshman center Micah Potter and the rest of the first-time Buckeyes. Potter knocked down a three-pointer en route to a six-point performance with five rebounds and a block.

Jackson picked up five points, but his real contribution was on the defensive side of the ball. Four steals, three of which came during the second half, paired with a six-assist mark with no turnovers earned high praise from Matta.

“I just tried to make the simple play and not do too much,” Jackson said. “Just hit the open man. Coach Matta has really been pressing us on making the good pass, making the perfect pass and snapping the ball to the right guy. That’s kind of what I focus on: taking one play at a time and just throw it to the team in white and we’re good to go.”

Jackson could have an extended role very soon, and OSU might be reaping the benefits.

JaQuan Lyle and Keita Bates-Diop a dynamic duo

Sophomore guard JaQuan Lyle and junior forward Keita Bates-Diop were key members of the 2015 team, combining for an average of 11.2 and 11.8 points per game, respectively. This year, the story should be no different.

Lyle and Bates-Diop combined for 26 points and 10 rebounds, going 10-for-14 as a duo. Lyle was scrutinized for his play last season, but Matta said during OSU Media Days in September that he has made progress.

It might be too early to say how much of an impact the two will have, but Sunday’s game showed how well the two can work when on the court.

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