For what seems like every week so far since the new year, the Ohio State Buckeyes basketball team once again split their two games this past week. Their inconsistent season remained just that. Although it has really only been four-consecutive weeks, the scarlet and gray saw their NCAA Tournament hopes fall even more after going 1-1, beating Big Ten’s worst team, Rutgers, and losing to one of the conference’s best teams in Maryland.
While their March Madness hopes are slim at best, prior to their game at Maryland, circumstances proved that life is bigger than basketball.
Ohio State beats Rutgers, 70-64
Heading into Wednesday night’s game, it was virtually a must win for the Buckeyes. They were hosting the worst team in the conference, and while they were near the cellar of the Big Ten, if they could strand a few wins together, Ohio State could see their fortunes turn. While they struggled at times, the scarlet and gray got a much-needed win over Rutgers, 70-64.
The Buckeyes held a 33-27 lead at halftime thanks to a 10-2 run and led by as much as 11 in the opening 20 minutes, but allowed the Scarlet Knights to work their way back into the game. After holding a 12-point lead in the second half, Rutgers somehow tied the game at 62 with tip-in with just over a minute remaining, Kam Williams hit an and-one three-pointer, connected on the free-throw, and gave Ohio State the lead for good.
Williams led the way with a career-high 23 points, to go along with three rebounds, one assist, and one block. Trevor Thompson (15 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks) and Jae’Sean Tate (11 points, five rebounds, four assists) also notched double-digits.
The Buckeyes shot well from all three areas in the score sheet: 46 percent from the field, 42 percent from beyond the arc, and 76 percent from the free-throw line.
One of their few glaring disappoints in the game was the fact that they had 15 turnovers compared to their 12 assists. They also allowed Rutgers to grab 15 offensive rebounds. Against a much better opponent, something like that would not have resulted in a win.
Even though his team won their second-consecutive game, head coach Thad Matta wasn’t too happy with how the Buckeyes played.
“We didn’t play at the level I wanted us to play at. We did some good things, but It wasn’t all the way through the game at the level I was hoping we would play at. Give them credit, they are a very good defensive team. We had some plays at the offensive end that weren’t sharp enough. I thought Kam was terrific tonight. He had energy and he had great timing to his offense. That was a very positive thing.”
Here’s some highlights from the win:
Buckeyes just don’t have enough, lose at Maryland, 86-77
Even at full strength, Ohio State would have had a tough time coming away with a win at Maryland, who are one of the best teams in the conference and one of the top-25 teams in the country. While dealing with foul trouble and just a better team, the Buckeyes were topped by the Terrapins, 86-77 Saturday afternoon in a game that meant very little in comparison to what two Buckeyes players were dealing with.
Due to two different family emergencies, the Buckeyes were without starting guard JaQuan Lyle and forward Ketia Bates-Diop, who was already out for the season due to an injury. While talking to the media Friday afternoon before the team departed for College Park, Matta delivered the news that two of his players had to deal with difficult situations with their families. Lyle’s sister was dealing with “complications” following the birth of her child and Bates-Diop’s 16-year-old brother, Kai, collapsed during his basketball practice Thursday night.
Matta was almost in tears and very broken up when delivering the news. Here’s what he had to say, via Eleven Warriors’ Tim Shoemaker:
“I want to address a couple of issues first that we’ve been dealing with here,” Matta said to begin his press conference. “JaQuan Lyle will not play tomorrow. His 19-year-old sister had a baby a few days ago and there has been complications. Not doing well at all. I got a text message a little bit ago that said she had taken a turn for the worst. … We’ve spoken to his mother, and we’ve advised him to stay with her.”
“[Thursday] afternoon, got a phone call from Keita and his brother Kai, a 16-year-old and one of the best players in the state of Illinois who we are recruiting, collapsed in practice and had a heart attack,” Matta continued. “They brought him back and they flew him to Peoria last night. Hopefully, everything is going to be OK with those guys. Kai is alert and talking and all that stuff.”
“What’s hard is these guys are your kids, man, and you hate to see them going through this with family members at their age.”
These two situations put basketball in perspective for Ohio State. It is in fact just a game, a fun game at that, and there are far more important things in life than college basketball. If they didn’t notice that before the weekend, the Buckeyes players (and coaches) realized that now. Guard Joey Lane made a little but meaningful tribute to both Lyle’s sister and Bates-Diop’s brother prior to their game at Maryland.
— Joey Lane (@JoeySmoke11) February 11, 2017
Coming up this week:
Tuesday at Michigan State (15-10, 7-5), 9 p.m. ET
Saturday vs. Nebraska (10-14, 4-8), 6 p.m. ET