For the Ohio State Buckeyes, the entire 2016 men’s basketball season has been on a rollercoaster. It’s only fitting that in their final game of the season, the Buckeyes’ had an up-and-down game, ultimately leading to their 74-66 loss to the Florida Gators in what was the second round of the NIT. Without two of their top three scorers (Jae’Sean Tate out due to shoulder surgery and Keita Bates-Diop was dealing with mono), the scarlet and gray didn’t have enough firepower to beat a team like the Gators, unlike they did against Akron in the first round.1
The start of both halves killed the Buckeyes when they dug themselves in too big of a hole both times to fully recover from. To start the game, Florida scored 14 of the game’s first 16 points, including the first nine. Trailing 30-31 at halftime after finishing the first half on a 9-0 run, the Bucks once again allowed the Gators to start the half on another 14-2 run, all but putting the game away just minutes into the second half.
Only five Ohio State players scored in the game, including three in double figures: Marc Loving (game-high 20 points, four rebounds, one assist, two steals), JaQuan Lyle (19 points, 11 rebounds, two assists), Daniel Giddens (11 points, six rebounds, three blocks), Kam Williams (nine points, six rebounds, two assists), and A.J. Harris (seven points, one rebound, four assists, one steal). Two of Harris’ seven points came on a monstrous dunk over Florida’s Kevarrius Hayes.2
While the Buckeyes finished the season with a 21-14 record — the 14 losses were the most losses a Matta-coached team has ever had in a single season — with just one junior and the rest underclassmen, everyone who received playing time for Ohio State this season will return next season. Following the game, Matta and the rest of the Buckeyes were more focused on next season than they were wanting to talk about their loss to Florida that ended the current season, a season that was a disappointing rollercoaster ride. The head coach admitted that the team must get better this off-season.
“One of the biggest things is this should serve as a humbling experience and how we define humility is knowing your strengths and your weaknesses, I think all of us need to commit to getting better.”
Freshman JaQuan Lyle, who also had a rollercoaster season while being a distributor for the Buckeyes stated that the Buckeyes have to remember the feeling of losing and coming out without any energy in any game going into next season.
“We need to remember this feeling for next year and remember how you come out flat like that and how the game will end.”
The lone junior and upperclassman on the team, Marc Loving was only positive looking into the future for the Buckeyes. With one full season of playing together under their belt, he admitted that it should only get better from here.
“All the guys know each others game’s pretty well and we have a whole year of chemistry under our belt so we’ll be able to work on our game all the time, work on our game in the off-season and try to build to get consecutive wins.”
The 2015-16 version of the Buckeyes may have been a disappointing ride, with such a young team, but look for the 2016-17 version to not only be better, but compete for a Big Ten title.
- For what it’s worth, head coach Thad Matta stated that Bates-Diop would have been out for the remainder of the season due to the amount of weight he has already lost because of his illness. [↩]
- Not only was it an impressive dunk, but the poster was a 5-foot-9 guard dunking over a 6-foot-9 center. [↩]