Buckeyes Roundball Roundup: Just short at Virginia, withstand Knights

Steve Helber, AP

For the Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team, last week had potential to be a good one. Unfortunately, it didn’t come to fruition. The scarlet and gray came up just short at Virginia, who are considered one of the best teams in the country, and struggled to beat Fairleigh Dickinson:

Buckeyes can’t hold 12-point halftime lead in 63-61 loss at Virginia

The Big Ten – ACC Challenge seems to give Ohio State one of its toughest non-conference opponents every season and that continued this year. Wednesday night, the Buckeyes traveled to Virginia to take on the No. 7 Cavaliers. For the scarlet and gray, it was a tale of two halves in the two-point loss to one of the best teams in the country, 63-61.

Against the No. 1-ranked defensive team in the country so far this season, the Buckeyes came out blazing on both sides of the ball in the first half. Heading into the halftime locker room, they led a 36-24 lead, including having a 16-point lead with less than four minutes remaining. The Bucks were impressive on both sides of the ball in arguably their best half of the season.

Then, the second half happened. The Cavaliers came out of the locker room and scored the first 11 points during the first four minutes of the second stanza to cut the lead to just one. While the Buckeyes were then eventually able to take a 50-42 lead of their own, Virginia was able to fight their way back (again) and took their first lead of the second half with just two minutes remaining in the game, 59-57, before being able to hold off the Buckeyes. Ohio State was outscored in the second half, 39-25.

For Ohio State, turnovers proved costly, especially late in the game. They had 20 turnovers compared to Virginia’s 10, including starting point guard JaQuan Lyle having eight himself. If your point guard has eight turnovers, you aren’t going to win many games, especially when playing on the road against a top-10 team and the best defensive team in the country, something that head coach Thad Matta pointed out following the game.

“As great teams do, they capitalized on every mistake we made down the stretch,”

Just two Buckeyes scored in double figures (six scored at least seven points). Forward Jae’Sean Tate (14 points, nine rebounds, one assist) and Lyle (12 points, three rebounds, five assists, two steals, one block) were the lone Buckeyes to scored double-digits.

In the loss, there were also a few positives. The Buckeyes were able to shoot 50 percent from the field against the No. 1 defensive team. For what it’s worth, Matta’s teams are 149-10 when they shoot at least 50 percent. Also, after struggling at the free-throw line in their first six games of the season, they made 11-of-13 (85 percent) from the free-throw stripe. Hopefully that is something they can continue going forward. Also, Ohio State was without starting forward Keita Bates-Diop for the fourth-straight game. If he was healthy and able to play, the outcome may have been different.

Coming away with a win at Virginia would have been a big one early in the season and could have been a big resume-builder come March, but they just couldn’t hold their big lead. If anything, Ohio State realized their potential and what they could be this season on Wednesday night, something that Matta realized as well.

“I hope we take a lot from it because I told them after the game, `We’re close, but we’re not there yet.”

After their good but just not good enough performance against Virginia, Williams weighed in on how he thinks the team can improve going forward.

“We just need to stick with our system. We need to work on it every day. We’ve proven that when we deviate from our system and who we really are, we aren’t as good. When we’re locked in, I feel like we’re clicking on all cylinders.”

Ohio State struggles early but comes away with 70-62 against Knights

What a difference two games makes for the Buckeyes. Whether it was that maybe they believed that could beat Fairleigh Dickinson just sleep-walking through the game or something else, Ohio State didn’t come to play Saturday night. Luckily for them, due to the fact that they just out-talented the Knights, the scarlet and gray were still able to come away with a 70-62 victory to remain undefeated at home.

In a first half that featured Fairleigh Dickinson having a five-point lead more than halfway through the half, Ohio State took just a 33-32 lead into halftime. Luckily for them, Ohio State scored the first eight points of the second half and went on an 18-2 run to start the second 20 minutes to take the lead for good.

While talking to the media following the game, Matta admitted that his team was a little lucky Wednesday night and won because they just had better talent.

“I feel like this team is at its best when we’re about to play a game and we play like our hair’s on fire. When we play these games, we don’t have that sense of urgency.”

The Bucks were led by four players who notched double figures: forward Marc Loving (18 points, three rebounds, two assists), guard Kam Williams (17 points, four rebounds, one assist, four steals), Tate (12 points, 12 rebounds, three assists), and forward Trevor Thompson (10 points, 13 rebounds, two assists, one steal, five blocks). Thompson, while notching a double-double, had one of his best games as a Buckeye, including a career-high five blocks.

Although Ohio State shot 50 percent from the field (for the second-consecutive game), their struggles at the free-throw line came back after they shot very well from their at Virginia. The scarlet and gray made just 12-of-21 (57 percent) from the line, which is horrible, to say the least.

They didn’t prove costly this game, but turnovers were once again an issue for the Buckeyes. They had 14 in the game, including seven turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game. Lyle had five alone.

After a well-fought game against Virginia to start the week, the way the Buckeyes played to finish the week was disappointing. Matta most likely isn’t happy and will make sure his team doesn’t play down to the level of their competition against teams who are worse than them the rest of the season.

Coming up this week:

Tuesday vs. Florida Atlantic (2-5), 7 p.m. ET

Saturday vs. Connecticut (3-4), 6 p.m. ET