Men's Basketball

A Tale of Two Halves? Player-Led, Battle-Tested Team Makes Adjustments, Finds Life After Halftime

COLUMBUS — At halftime on Tuesday night, the Buckeyes had two assists, eight turnovers, no free throws, no player with more than four points, and they shot 13 percent from 3.

This team talks a lot about being a player-led, battle-tested team who having faced adversity, is strong enough mentally to roll with the punches and push through lulls.

The second half of the Buckeyes’ game against Minnesota on Tuesday night showed just that.

Everything this team had gone through leading up to that point, coming out of the tunnel after halftime, gave them what they needed to turn a poor first half into an electric 25-point win at home. Or maybe it was just making solid adjustments in a tough conference game.

Either way, momentum shifted after the Buckeye offense came to life and Ohio State looked like a completely different team after a rough first half, where nothing could go right and they looked lifeless. Their energy changed.

The Buckeyes came out of halftime, hit four 3s and forced Minnesota into a shot clock violation. Malaki Branham contributed two of the 3s back-to-back, while Jamari Wheeler added his two. But it just kept going from there.

The Scarlet and Gray were shooting 75 percent from the field and 100 percent from 3 through the first 9:00 of the second half. Ohio State even had two offensive rebounds on one possession after having only two in the entire first half.

Even though it was a slow paced game for both teams in the first half, Minnesota didn’t respond in the same way and didn’t find that spark that Ohio State did at halftime.

“They really flipped the narrative in terms of just their intensity level, their details on both sides of the ball,” Minnesota head coach Ben Johnson said. “And we just didn’t bring it.”

But when asked about his teams response, Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said he doesn’t view the game as “a tale of two halves.” He wasn’t worried about whether or not his team could respond because he knew the realities of conference games in the Big Ten and how they often come down to the wire. They never felt out of it.

While he was not pleased with his teams sloppiness and carelessness with the ball early on, he was pleased with their defense. He thought the difference in the second half came simply down to defensive adjustments attacking the zone and finally making open shots as opposed to finding some kind of spark. But as for how the defensive changes and adjustments get implemented, Holtmann said that’s all player-led and he is proud of the way his team is focused on improving defensively every game.

The players knew that the first half of the game wasn’t characteristic of the way they have been playing, but it also didn’t show how good they could be. They knew something had to change. Zed Key described it as “sluggish” and Wheeler added that in one of the worst halves they have played all year, they weren’t playing “their game.”

While their offense lit up the court coming out of halftime, the focus was on maintaining their defensive effort, and they knew the offense would eventually follow.

“Just keep doing what we’re doing on defense and turn defense into offense,” Wheeler said. “That’s the way we want to play, get turnovers and play in transition. We feel like that’s the easy way to score and the way we want to play, focus on the defensive end and everything else will take care of itself.”

On Tuesday night, it did.