For three straight games, the Ohio State men’s basketball team had struggled shooting the ball, especially from 3-point territory. Over that period, OSU shot just 17.7 percent from 3, ranking second to last in the nation over that span.
On Tuesday night against Youngstown State, redshirt junior guard Kam Williams and senior forward Marc Loving knocked home the team’s first two shots from distance, igniting an offense that pulled away early in the Buckeyes’ 77-40 win over the Penguins at the Schottenstein Center.
Redshirt junior center Trevor Thompson led the Ohio State men’s basketball team with 15 rebounds and had 11 points. Junior forward Keita Bates-Diop added 15 points to help OSU (9-3) bounce back from a loss to No. 2 UCLA in its last game on Dec. 17.
Junior forward Jae’Sean Tate was one of four players in double figures for OSU with 15 points. Sophomore guard JaQuan Lyle led the offense with nine assists and only two turnovers.
OSU began the game on a 27-5 run, which included a 13-0 run over a five-minute span. Williams started his night by hitting on his first two attempts from the field, a rhythm he hadn’t felt for over two weeks.
“It felt real good. It was real fun being out there,” Williams said. “Its one of the best feelings in the world when you get your mojo back.”
Williams connected on two more 3s in the second half and shot 6 of 9 from the field for 15 points. He was just 2 for 17 from 3-point range in the previous three games combined.
OSU held the lead comfortably throughout the first half. Bates-Diop came off the bench for the fourth straight game at the 12:58 mark, as he continues to nurse a high-ankle sprain that he suffered on Nov. 17 against Providence. He played 17 minutes and shot 7 of 9 from the floor.
Thompson’s statistics benefitted from the injury to freshman center Micah Potter, who appeared to turn his ankle on the opening tipoff. The reserve center averaged a rebound per minute with 12 boards in the first half. OSU led 42-14 at the half.
Coach Thad Matta said that Potter twisted his ankle on the referee’s foot on the opening tipoff and the 6-foot-9 freshman is day-to-day.
Thompson has arguably been the most consistent player on the Buckeye squad, 12 games into the 2016-17 season. He’s averaging 10.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game compared to last season’s mark of 6.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in only three fewer minutes of play. Matta has criticized his 7-foot center for his lack of attention to detail in the past. Thompson said his 12 rebounds in the first half on Tuesday night are exhibits of new habits taking over old ones.
“It’s becoming very instinctive,” Thompson said. “I get lost in the flow of the game and the euphoria of the game. I don’t really think about it. I know my job is to rebound — to play defense and block shots. I get kind of suprised when someone tells me I have this many rebounds.”
The OSU half-court defense continues to be the strongest part of the team. Coming into the game, Youngstown State junior guard Cameron Morse was averaging the fifth-most points of any player in the NCAA. Against OSU, he was 1 of 12 from the floor, including 0-for-4 shooting from 3, and just 6 points. The Penguins shot 14.8 percent in the first half and only 25.7 percent in the second half.
“They’re one of the better Ohio State defensive teams that I’ve seen,” said Youngstown State coach Jerry Slocum. “They are way, way above good in terms of how they can guard you in the halfcourt.”
OSU possibly put together its most complete game of the season to this point. The Penguins are ranked No. 277 by KenPom.com, however locking down one of the nation’s premier scorers, shooting well from the start and out rebounding an opponent 54-35 has Matta seeing some progression just one game before Big Ten play begins.
“I wanted to have a game like this, just from the standpoint of wanting to play like this for once,” Matta said. “I just like the focus that we had in sticking to the details.”