The Chris Holtmann Era at Ohio State is now officially underway, and the Buckeyes got things started off in a positive fashion with a 95-64 win over Robert Morris Friday night.
This was my first look at this edition of the Buckeyes, so there is still plenty to process. Robert Morris brought in a young and undersized team, which seemed to provide just the kind of matchup to make Ohio State feel their oats.
There were positives and there were negatives, but that’s every game, especially early in the season.
What did we learn from Game No. 1? A few things.
1. This team moves the ball.
That was the first thing to strike me watching this team. The ball is constantly moving — especially when C.J. Jackson is in the game. It bogs down a little with Andrew Dakich in, but not in a bad way. The Buckeyes were constantly looking for good shots and didn’t really start settling until the second half when they were already up by 20-plus points. And these weren’t needless passes, they were thrown with purpose, knowing that one pass would lead to another, which would lead to the look the team wanted. It was almost billiards-like, where you’re thinking three or four shots ahead. It was good to see and there was no standing and dribbling and watching the clock tick. There also wasn’t much worry about the shot clock, which also helps explain the 95 points.
2. It is good to see KBD back.
Ohio State really has nobody else like Keita Bates-Diop. He is big, tall, and long, and he can do a number of different things with the basketball. He can score from anywhere on the court, and get from the perimeter to the rim in one dribble. He isn’t going to dominate like this every night — 19 points and 11 rebounds, but it was just good to see him back playing again. It’s been almost an entire year since he went down with an injury. There will be off nights and quiet nights, but at least he’ll be out there.
3. The point guard rotation is only C.J. Jackson and Andrew Dakich.
Kam Williams said a month or so ago that he spent most of the offseason working on his point guard skills, but the point guard rotation in this game was strictly C.J. Jackson (23 mins) and Andrew Dakich (17 mins), and they did pretty well. They finished with a combined 11 assists and 4 turnovers. Dakich didn’t take any shots, choosing instead to set his teammates up. Jackson finished 2-of-6 shooting, taking some bad shots along the way. He still doesn’t look like the shooter the Buckeyes are going to need him to be this season.
4. There is talent among the freshmen.
Center Kaleb Wesson led the Buckeye rookies with 13 points and 7 rebounds. With his frame and wearing the No. 34, he will remind you of former Buckeye Terence Dials when you finally get to watch this team play. Wesson will need to get stronger, but he has touch around the basket. You can see a bright future. Guard Musa Jallow has tremendous athleticism — a notch below former Buckeye Sam Thompson, and was equally comfortable shooting off the dribble or the pass, from the perimeter or from the mid-range. He should still be a senior in high school, so he’s got some growing to do, but his mindset right now is that he wants to be a stalwart defender on the perimeter, which is a great attitude to have for a true freshman. Forward Kyle Young surprised me by his height and length. Young is listed as 6-foot-8 and 205 pounds, and he might actually be that tall. He came in and within his first minute of play he was blocking a Robert Morris dunk attempt. Then at the end of the game, he capped the Buckeyes’ scoring with a putback dunk and a breakaway dunk.
5. Jae’Sean Tate will need to find his place.
With the ball movement as it is, Jae’Sean Tate found himself on the baseline for some catch-and-shoot opportunities that do not suit him. He instead drove the baseline, which I can see causing one or two charging fouls per game if he goes too deep. I’m not really sure where Tate fits into this offense, but that’s also sort of his allure. He’s gelatinous like that — he can get into creases and find a way to stick. He is never going to be a shooter, and his finishing depends as much on himself as it does on not having a shot-blocker down low, but you’re always going to get effort, and that’s something that was desperately missing from the team too much of last season.
[Keita Bates-Diop photo courtesy ohiostatebuckeyes.com]