In Ohio State’s last performance, coach Thad Matta and company put on an impressive display against the No. 6 ranked Virginia Cavaliers. On Saturday afternoon, that impressive play seemed to disappear, as OSU struggled to get ahead against Fairleigh Dickinson before the Buckeyes pulled away 70-62.
“I’m just proud of my guys fighting to the very end,” Fairleigh Dickinson coach Greg Herenda said following the game.
Saturday was the first time the two teams had met. It took nearly three minutes before either side found the bottom of the net. The first time a Buckeye touched the ball, it was a turnover, committed by junior forward Jae’Sean Tate.
OSU junior center Trevor Thompson provided a spark off the bench on the defensive end, registering three blocks and pulling down four defensive rebounds in the first. Two of his first half blocks came on the same defensive frame. The long arms and physical play of Thompson was noticed by the Knights coaching staff.
“Guys like that don’t exist in our league,” Herenda said.
Senior forward Marc Loving and redshirt junior guard Kam Williams led the Buckeyes with 13 and 10 point in the first half, respectively. By the end of the game, the pair had poured in a combined 35 points.
Fairleigh Dickinson leaned on junior guard Darian Anderson to lead the offense in the first, as well as the rest of the game. Anderson had eight points in the first, along with three assists. By the final whistle, he had 17 points and six assists.
Tate shook off a rough start to finish with his third double-double of the 2016 season, racking up 12 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. Early in the second, the junior provided a spark with a no-look, over his head pass from the right elbow to a cutting Thompson for an emphatic alley-oop slam.
After a forced turnover on the other end, OSU kept the momentum with a and-one dunk for Loving. The Buckeyes made eight of their first 10 shots to start the second, stretching out to a 51-34 lead off a layup by freshman forward Andre Wesson.
The Buckeyes held on to a comfortable lead for the rest of the game, using a fast break to pick up 14 points. OSU’s defense pestered the Knights for most of the night, as Matta’s team picked up five blocks and seven steals.
A 6-0 run for Fairleigh Dickinson that started with 11:13 left in the second, pair with a three minute scoring drought for the Buckeyes brought the Knights with nine, but was not enough in the end.
“I just didn’t like the overall effort we had today,” Matta said. “We gotta get that corrected by Tuesday night.”
Turnovers and poor free throw shooting continue to plague OSU, as the Scarlet and Gray made just 12 free throws of their 21 attempts. The Buckeyes were guilty of 14 turnovers, and averaged 14.6 turnovers per game coming into the contest.
Even though the team struggled at times, The Buckeyes walked away victorious, albeit with a few things to work on in the next few weeks.
“Today wasn’t a complete L,” Williams said. “We won the game. Just go back to the drawing board.”
The biggest for Buckeyes fans following the win might not be the poor showing, but the potential effects on Thompson. Following the game the junior center appeared to be limping.
When asked about it, he said it should not be a factor in OSU’s next game.
“I just wanted to win, so regardless of any type of pain or whatever that I was going through, I knew I had to push through for the team,” Thompson said. “I don’t know what happened. I went up for like an offensive rebound when Marc shot it and I twisted my ankle, but I should be fine.”
The Buckeyes remain at home to face Florida Atlantic at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The Owls are currently 2-4 this season, with wins over Edward Waters College and University of South Florida.