Ohio State had a chance to rebound in a big way on Saturday after two losses in its last three games. After senior forward Marc Loving held a players-only meeting after practice earlier this week, the Buckeyes responded with a second-half comeback for a 64-60 win.
OSU junior center Trevor Thompson was the main scorer and rebounder on Saturday, picking up 17 points and 17 rebounds, while going 9-for-10 from the free-throw line. Both statistics were career-high marks for the junior center.
“I wasn’t even worried about (stats) honestly,” Thompson said. “I just wanted to win. I just wanted to do the things that my coaches and my teammates needed of me. I was surprised when I seen the statsheet cause I wasn’t keeping track., I was just trying to play. Let the game come to me.”
After a quick start for a 10-4 lead, the Buckeyes suffered from UConn’s sudden changes on defense. The Huskies quickly switched to a zone defense following OSU’s fast start, forcing OSU to settle for shots away from the rim.
The Buckeyes struggled to knock down their shots, going just 11-for-30 in the first half. OSU’s behind-the-arc game had been helpful for most of the season. That aspect disappeared in the first 20 minutes, as Thad Matta’s squad went just 2-for-12 from deep in the opening frame, and failed to make a 3-pointer in the second on six attempts.
“The biggest thing (is) we gotta start shooting the ball better,” Matta said. “We’re getting great looks, and there just not going down for us. If we can get the inside-out, I like this basketball team.”
Redshirt junior guard Kam Williams, a known 3-point shooter, struggled to find any production from 3-point range. In all, Williams has made just four of his last 19 shots from behind the arc.
Coming into the game, UConn had struggled the entire season on offense. Saturday was no different, as the Buckeyes forced 16 turnovers, limiting point production for the Huskies.
Even with a limited output on offense, the Huskies were able to harass OSU’s shooters enough to limit the Buckeyes to just 34 percent shooting. Coming out of the break, UConn broke out to an eight-point lead, but failed to find a rhythm to keep the lead permanent.
“The last two games, I don’t know what’s wrong with us,” said sophomore guard JaQuan Lyle, who poured in 16 points. “We’re not making a lot of shots. Shots we’ve been making all year long.”
A bullet pass from Thompson to junior forward Keita Bates-Diop tied the game at 47 with 10 minutes remaining. Two minutes later, a pair of free throws from Thompson gave OSU its first lead since before halftime.
OSU kept the pace, and was able to keep its lead before the final whistle.
The Buckeyes struggled to spread the ball around, earning just six assists on 18 made shots. However, the plethora of turnovers for the Huskies haunted UConn down the stretch. Robert Ollie’s team never quite found the groove, and played catch up for the last eight minutes.
A few made shots and quick fouls by the Huskies brought UConn within three, but solid foul shooting in the final minute sealed the deal for the Buckeyes. OSU went 26-for-34 from the free throw line, while UConn could only only muster a 5-for-9 mark, much to the dismay of the Huskies coach.
“We make five, and they make 26, that’s the ballgame,” Ollie said. “We turned the ball over too much I thought our defense was impeccable again. But, gotta make the plays when it counts.”
With the win, OSU is now 8-2, and will travel to Las Vegas to face UCLA next Saturday. Currently, the Bruins are ranked No. 2 in the nation, and are a perfect 9-0.