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Buckeyes Control Throughout, Beat Michigan
February 16, 2016

Thad Matta’s basketball Buckeyes were in desperate need of a signature win against an upper division conference opponent to keep their faint NCAA tournament hopes alive, and they were able to get it done, defeating arch rival Michigan 76-66 in front of a hostile crowd in the Schott. The win upped their record to 17-10, 9-5 in the Big Ten and good for a 5th place tie, ½ game behind 4th place Wisconsin. 

The Buckeyes utilized a true team effort in this one, paced by 5 players in double figures and paced by a stifling defense on the perimeter to hold the usually very good shooting Michigan team to 39% from the floor, including just 5 of 24 from behind the arc. 

The game was even much of the first 10 minutes, but a pair of 7-0 runs, spurred the Buckeyes to a lead as large as 12 late in the first half before settling with a 10 point lead at the break.  Jae’Sean Tate led the Buckeyes in the first half with 9, while JaQuan Lyle added 6, and Kam Williams and A.J. Harris came off the bench to also score 6 apiece.

After the excitement that was the halftime ceremony in which former Buckeye and National Player of the Year, Evan Turner had his jersey #21 raised to the rafters, the Buckeyes came out with the same intensity and extended the lead to 14 at the under 12 timeout. Michigan made a run to cut the lead to 7, but that was as close as they would get as Ohio State was effective inside the paint, cruising to the final score. Marc Loving and Tate led the Buckeyes with 13 apiece, while Trevor Thompson and Lyle added 12 and Kam Williams tallied 10 for the victorious Buckeyes. Loving also grabbed 10 boards for his 5th double-double of the season and also notched a season high tying 5 assists. Mark Donnal led Michigan with 17 and Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr. scored 15 and 13 respectively for the Wolverines, who were playing without star guard and Pickerington, Ohio native, Caris LeVert for the 12th time in 13 games. For the game, Ohio State shot 54% from the floor, making 9 straight field goal attempts during one stretch midway through the second half. The Buckeyes continue to do a much better job taking care of the basketball, turning it over only 9 times and assisting on 14 of their 27 made buckets.

A solid win for the Buckeyes, and maybe the best all around game of the year, especially considering what was on the line. A loss would have all but eliminated the young Buckeyes from NCAA tournament consideration. Now, with 4 games left, if they can take care of the road game at Nebraska and protect their home floor, which will be a stiff challenge with Michigan State and Iowa coming in, they will be dancing in March. One game at a time however, and next up will be a trip to Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Buckeyes will take the floor again on Saturday evening against the aforementioned Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln. Tipoff will be at 7PM.

-Jason Harris​



Ohio State Guts Out Big Road Win
February 20, 2016

The Ohio State Basketball Buckeyes knew what was at stake as they took the floor in Lincoln, Nebraska and they were able to come away with a hard fought overtime victory 65-62 to up their record to 18-10, 10-5 in conference play.  JaQuan Lyle hit a driving layup with 30 seconds remaining and after a defensive stop, Keita Bates-Diop split a pair of free throws to give the Buckeyes a 3 point lead and after a desperation off balance long range jumper by Nebraska hit the floor short, Ohio State escaped with their fourth straight victory, the longest such streak in the Big Ten currently.

Ohio State controlled the game midway through the second half as they built an 11 point lead, but Nebraska was able to answer, scoring 6 quick points on back to back three balls to get back in it. When Andrew White hit a 3 with 52 seconds left, suddenly Ohio State looked in danger of losing what amounted to a must win game. However, JaQuan Lyle, with just under 5 seconds on the shot clock and 10 seconds on the game clock, took the ball from the top of the circle and drove down the right side of the lane and drew a foul. Lyle calmly knocked down both free throws to tie it and as Nebraska scrambled to get the ball up the floor, Ohio State knocked it away into the hands of Mickey Mitchell who took one last half court heave which rimmed as the buzzer sounded sending the game to overtime.

The Buckeyes put 4 in double figures and ironically those were the only 4 players that entered the scoring column. Lyle led the Buckeyes with 19, as he really began asserting himself late in the second half and overtime. Jae’Sean Tate was big all ball game and finished with a double-double, scoring 15 and adding 12 rebounds. Keita Bates-Diop added 16 and Marc Loving 15 for the victorious Buckeyes.

It was an ugly game early as neither team was able to assert itself, with Ohio State shooting a paltry 31% from the floor and Nebraska, hitting on only 26% of its shots in the first half. The Huskers led at the break by a point due to 9 offensive rebounds and forcing the Buckeyes into 9 first half turnovers.  Marc Loving was the lone bright spot in the first 20 minutes, scoring 11 of the Buckeyes 21. 

So all in all, a good, tough, hard-nosed win for a young team in desperate need of a road win to keep its NCAA tournament and upper tier finish in the Big Ten Conference hopes alive. On a day in which the outside shot wasn’t going down, and the front line was decimated by foul trouble, JaQuan Lyle stepped up and became a go to guy down the stretch and essentially put the team on his back late to will the ballclub to a huge road win. Now, the home stretch is upon them as they play the next 2 at home against very formidable opponents, Michigan State and Iowa, before finishing on the road in East Lansing against the Spartans. In a season of ups and downs and growth, they are where they want to be, controlling their own destiny for a potential double bye in the Big Ten Tournament as well as a berth in the NCAA tournament. That’s a lot to play for, and all Buckeye fans should be proud of the job Thad Matta and his staff has done with the third youngest team in college basketball this season. 

Next up is a visit from Michigan State to the Schottenstein Center on Tuesday Night. Tipoff scheduled for 9 PM on ESPN. Let’s hope ESPN has banned those ridiculous sideline cameras.

-Jason Harris​



Ohio State Finishes Home Slate With Big Win
February 28, 2016

If the 2015-’16 version of the Ohio State men’s basketball team had any thoughts of getting into the NCAA tournament, they needed a win over a marquee opponent. Today, they were able to get it done, defeating 8th ranked Iowa, 68-64, upping their record to 19-11 and 11-6 in Big Ten play. 

Ohio State utilized a late 12-2 run to finish the game’s last 4 minutes to get a win that has been elusive at times this season for Thad Matta’s young basketball team.  Marc Loving scored a game-high 25 points, Keita Bates-Diop added 19 to go along with 6 rebounds and 5 blocks, including a big one late as Iowa’s Mike Gesell attempted to tie it with a driving layup, that secured the victory.  Kam Williams also added 11 in the win.

The Hawkeyes led by 6 with just under 4 to go and that’s when the Buckeyes went to work and when Kam Williams’ jumper from the perimeter fell through the ropes, the Buckeyes had a lead they would not relinquish. After a stop on the Iowa end, Kam Williams hit a 3 from the left corner to extend the lead to 4. After the Bates-Diop block, and ensuing foul, Loving knocked down a pair of free throws to seal it.

Ohio State won this game with defense. In addition to holding Iowa to just 2 points in the last 4 minutes, Iowa was held to just 41% shooting, including just 3 of 12 from deep. While Ohio State turned it over 15 times, they also forced Iowa into 15 of their own, well above their 10 per game average. Iowa was led by Jarrod Uthoff and Mike Gesell with 16 each and Peter Jok added 12.

Whether or not Ohio State, gets into the NCAA tournament or not, this is a win a young team can point to in its growth from one season to another. They are gradually learning how to win close games and that should prove valuable for the rest of this season and going into next year.
 

Ohio State will finish up the regular season in East Lansing, MI against the Spartans of Michigan State on Saturday. Tipoff scheduled for Noon.

-Jason Harris​



Ohio State Advances In the Big Ten Tournament
March 10, 2016

Ohio State’s slim NCAA hopes remain on life support, but a win in Indianapolis in the Big Ten tournament keeps those hopes alive as the Buckeyes advance to the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals, beating Penn State 79-75. The win also kept Thad Matta’s streak of 20 win seasons alive as he has never won less than 20 in his illustrious coaching career. 

The game didn’t start well for Ohio State as Penn State’s hot shooting from long range enabled the Lions to run out to a 10 point advantage with 4 minutes remaining in the first half. Ohio State answered by going on a 9-2 run to finish the half to close to within 3 at the break.  Marc Loving continued his solid play down the stretch of this season, leading the Buckeyes with 13 in the first 20 minutes and Keita Bates-Diop added 7.

The Buckeyes came out in the second half with a increased intensity on defense utilizing a 1-2-2 press, and after Penn State scored the first deuce of the half, the Buckeyes went on a 14-0 run that included a pair of triples by Loving and one from Bates-Diop to take a 9 point lead. But Penn State wasn’t going to go away and answered with a 6-0 run of their own, cutting the deficit to 3. The Buckeyes stretched the lead back to 9 midway through the half, but Penn State once again answered and took the lead with just under 4 minutes in the game. Ohio State once again answered using a pair of JaQuan Lyle dribble drive and finishes along with Loving free throws to take control. JaQuan Lyle split 4 free throws in the waning minutes to put the game away.  

Both teams hit 44% from the floor for the ballgame, but after hitting 7 of 12 from behind the arc in the first half, Penn State only hit 2 of 10 in the second half due to increased pressure from the Ohio State defense forcing Penn State to take multiple contested shots. Ohio State hit 26 of 39 from the line, which has been an Achilles heel all year long, but that was primarily due to Loving who hit 12 of 14 from the stripe. The Buckeyes controlled the boards, winning that battle 41-33, including a 15-10 advantage on the offensive glass.

Loving led the Buckeyes with 24 points and JaQuan Lyle added 22, including 10 rebounds and 5 assists, for his second double-double of the season. Bates-Diop added 14 and Trevor Thompson 10 for the winning Buckeyes. Shep Garner led Penn State with 25 and Donovon Jack added 18 and Brandon Taylor 14 . 

Ohio State advances in the Big Ten tournament for the 8th straight year. The last time Ohio State lost their first game was a loss to 4th seeded Michigan State in 2008 as a 5 seed. 

The number 7 seed Buckeyes will play the number 2 seed Michigan State Spartans, who also boast a #2 ranking in the country, at 6:30 tomorrow in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

-Jason Harris​
Spartan Experience, Hot Shooting Too Much For Young Bucks
March 5, 2016

It’s been a year of up and down’s for Thad Matta’s young basketball team and the regular season commenced in East Lansing, losing to one of the country’s most veteran and elite teams, 91-76, dropping their record to 19-12 and 11-7 in conference play. Michigan State showed the Buckeyes what they should aspire to become, a veteran, senior laden team that plays well together and shares the basketball with regularity. The Spartans put on a clinic, shooting 67 percent from the floor and assisting on 29 of 34 made field goals. Any way you cut it, they were the better team, despite a valiant effort from Ohio State. The Buckeyes hung with the Spartans early led by 14 first half points from JaQuan Lyle, but Michigan State’s ability to continually find the open man and knock down shots from the outside and the inside enabled the Spartans to take a 10 point advantage into the break.  

Ohio State stayed somewhat into the game by virtue of some hot shooting in their own right, finishing 11 of 23 from long range, but once again poor free throw shooting, just 11 of 23, including a couple front ends, cost them any chance of the upset.

Marc Loving led the Buckeyes with 21 points, and JaQuan Lyle and Kam Williams added 18 and 15 respectively. Denzel Valentine, the presumptive Big Ten player of the year and potential National player of the year, scored 27 points, and dazzled continuously, dishing out 13 assists in his final home game as a Spartan. Matt Costello added 15 and Bryn Forbes 13, who both were also playing their last home games in Green and White. 

This game was a perfect example of what a veteran team that has played together for a long time can do and Buckeye fans should be very excited to see what this current crop of Buckeyes could do in the next couple of years as they play more games together and become more polished on both ends of the floor. The Spartans played 4 seniors who won’t be around in a year, but all of these Buckeyes will be back, which could change things going forward. But, on this day, Michigan State is the better team and it clearly showed.

Michigan State cemented the number 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and earned a double bye, opening up on Friday in Indianapolis. Ohio State is awaiting the result of a couple of games before knowing their landing spot which will be anywhere from 5 to 7 meaning a Thursday game. 

Next up for Ohio State is the Big Ten Tournament, earning a 5 or 6 seed if Michigan tops Iowa in Ann Arbor, and the 7 seed if Iowa wins. Game will be played on Thursday, with tip time determined by seed.

-Jason Harris​
Basketball Bucks Survive Akron in OT
March 15, 2016

Ohio State playing shorthanded, without the injured Jae’Sean Tate and the under the weather Keita Bates-Diop, outscored the visiting Zips 10-1 in overtime and advance in the NIT, winning 72-63, upping their overall record to 21-13 on the season.

The Buckeyes, working with a very short bench, playing only 7 players, survived the long range gunning Zips. Ohio State played stifling perimeter defense forcing Akron to struggle from long range, going just 9 of 42 from deep and 23 of 70 overall and the Zips were just as bad from the line, shooting just 8 of 20 from the charity stripe, most of which belonged to 60% shooting Isaiah Johnson, who hit just 6 of 16 himself. Ohio State also struggled to find rhythm from the floor, hitting just 34% from the field. However, the normally poor free throw shooting Buckeyes redeemed themselves at the line, hitting 21 of 23 for the game which was one big reason Ohio State was able to come away with the victory. The Buckeyes also dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Zips 57 to 43, including 18 offensive boards. 

The host Buckeyes took control in overtime due to a couple of Akron missed free throws and a nifty pass from the perimeter in the paint to Kam Williams for a layup, along with a Williams steal and layup. A couple of Marc Loving free throws later, the Buckeyes were in control and never looked back en route to the victory. Three Buckeyes, Marc Loving, JaQuan Lyle and Kam Williams each scored 18 to lead the way. Lyle and Loving each completed the double-double with 14 and 13 rebounds each. Williams, making his first start of the year, responded by not only providing a spark offensively, but was very disruptive on the defensive end as well, rebounding the basketball and defending the perimeter making things difficult for the Zip shooters.  

The game went back and forth most of the first half, before a late 8-0 run by the Zips turned a 1 point deficit into a 7 point lead, which would be their biggest of the game. A runner in the paint by JaQuan Lyle cut the deficit to 4 as time was winding down in the half and gave the Buckeyes a little momentum going into the locker room. The Buckeyes picked up where they left off early in the second half, grabbing a 4 point lead early, but neither team could pull away as the game continued to go back and forth. Ohio State had an opportunity to win it late, but a short runner from the right side by Lyle rimmed off sending the game to overtime. 

 Overall, a gutty performance by Thad Matta's young squad, who will have an opportunity to continue the season for at least a few more days and a few more practices which are invaluable for such a young team, returning their entire roster next season. The key will be to find some consistency going forward in a one and done scenario and how will the Buckeyes respond coming off a big win. Hopefully they are able to play another week or two and make a deep run in what may be a meaningless tournament in the big picture, but for this team, it may be just what they need to propel them into next season.

Ohio State advances to the second round of the NIT and will host the winner of North Florida and Florida in the Schott on either Sunday or Monday, time TBA.

-Jason Harris​
Ohio State’s Season Ends in NIT’s 2nd Round
March 20, 2016

The Ohio State men’s basketball team fought youth and inconsistency all season long and it caught up with them early in the second half as they dug a deep hole they couldn’t get out of in a 74-66 loss to Florida in the Schott. Florida jumped out to a 12-2 lead to start the game and maintained that lead for much of the first half, but the Buckeyes roared back, finishing the half on a 9-0 run to cut the lead to 1. The second half, the Buckeyes started out slow again, turning the ball over 4 times early in digging themselves a 16 point hole due to a 25-10 start by the Gators. 

Playing a second straight game without the sick Keita Bates-Diop and the injured Jae’Sean Tate, the Buckeyes essentially played just 7 players and struggled mightily defending the paint and the Gators used that to their advantage, ripping down 16 offensive rebounds. Offensively, the Buckeyes struggled for the second straight game from the field, hitting on only 39% and just 27% from long range.

The Buckeyes kept battling however and seemed to gain some momentum after 5’9” A.J. Harris blew by his defender on the baseline and hammered a posterizing dunk over Keyvarius Allen to energize the crowd and cut the lead to 11. After a pair of free throws from Harris, the Buckeyes were able to cut the lead to just 7 with 4 minutes to go, but a Florida 3 from the left wing got it back to 10 and seemed to quell any thoughts that the Buckeyes would be able to roar back. Ohio State cut it to as close a 7 down the stretch, but Florida was able to keep the Buckeyes at arm’s length by converting their free throws down the stretch. 

Marc Loving led Ohio State with 20 and JaQuan Lyle finished off his second straight double-double, finishing with 19 points and 11 boards.  Daniel Giddens finished with a career high 11 points to go along with 6 boards and 4 blocks as the Buckeyes finish their transitional campaign with a 21-14 mark. 

So, we look forward to next season as Ohio State will be a year older and a year more experienced. In addition to returning their entire roster, depth will be added in the post in the form of 6’9” freshman forward Derek Funderburk from Lakewood St. Edward High School, and 6’10” center Micah Potter from Mentor, via national powerhouse Montverde Academy in Florida. Certainly better days are ahead for Ohio State basketball as the offseason will be dedicated to getting better and healthy. As we look forward to next season, certainly Wisconsin will be the Big Ten favorite by most and the Buckeyes will be in the mix to compete for a title. The upper tier of the Big Ten this season all lose significant players leaving the Badgers and the Buckeyes the most game experienced heading into the season. 

That’s a wrap on this season. It’s been a pleasure bringing our readers Buckeye basketball wraps all year long and we look forward to next year as the promise of bigger and better things are ahead for this basketball team. Until then, keep the faith and GO BUCKS!

-Jason Harris
Trouble In The Basketball Program?
March 29, 2016

In the last 48 hours, the basketball Buckeyes have lost 3 freshmen to transfer.  Daniel Giddens announced his intentions yesterday to leave the program for family reasons. Today, Mickey Mitchell and A.J. Harris followed suit. That makes 4/5 of the highly touted, and top 5 recruiting class who have departed the program in the last 6 months. That trio joins Austin Grandstaff who bolted for Oklahoma in November. 

So, now the question is, who do we hold accountable? The natural reaction is to blame Thad Matta. That is certainly fair, but is it him or is it the culture of the young athlete who enter big time college basketball feeling entitled without having to earn a spot? I am leaning toward the latter. There are some of the belief, myself included, that the culture in the program needed a change. It is possible Coach Matta laid out an ultimatum to these kids in postseason discussions to change their attitude and work harder. We will never truly know what was said behind closed doors, but the program may be better off without guys who don’t want to be here.

So, the bottom line is, the top 6 scorers from a year ago return and yes, Trevor Thompson will be coming back, despite the fact he used the new rule allowing him to attend the NBA draft combine but not hire an agent, a fact that Thompson himself has reiterated. The Buckeyes will also be adding 6’10” center, Micah Potter, who had a big senior year for national power Montverde Academy in Florida and also Derek Funderburk, a 6’9” power forward and 4 star recruit out of Lakewood, Ohio. There is also a strong possibility of adding 6’7” wingman Andre Wesson of Westerville South, son of former Buckeye Keith Wesson, who recently led his team to a state title and who's brother is committed to the 2017 class. 

Matta and company will also be hosting University of New Mexico wingman Cullen Neal who averaged 17 ppg as a redshirt freshman, and dipped to 12 ppg this past year on a depleted team and will be eligible immediately under the graduate transfer rule and have 2 years of eligibility remaining. 

An additional possibility is Markell Johnson, a 4 star PG from Cleveland who is the #2 overall player in the state of Ohio for the class of 2017, but is on track to graduate early and may reclassify to 2016. He currently has Ohio State as 1 of his 5 finalists, but earlier this evening, Johnson put out the following tweet:

Markell Johnson ‏@kells_2017 1h1 hour ago






If you would’ve told me at the end of the season I could trade Mickey Mitchell and A.J. Harris for Andre Wesson and Markell Johnson, I would’ve taken that in a second and not looked back. Giddens will be missed for his defense and he seemed to have potential to be a very good player here, but Funderburk and Potter come in with a much more refined offensive game in the post, which is where the Buckeyes struggled in many games this season. Is there a question about Matta? Maybe. 3 down years after the heights he had taken this program to is probably fair. He was burnt by a highly rated recruiting class that never developed and lost D’Angelo Russell before anyone expected so he had to restock the cupboards and suffered the growing pains and apparently a culture issue with the class he brought in. 2016-17 is most definitely a big year for Coach Matta and he’s well aware, but if he can land at least 2 of the guys mentioned above and signs point to at least 2, then we may be seeing the turnaround quickly. If not, he still returns the top 6 players from a year ago and not many teams can boast that.  

-Jason Harris​