The Raiders (5-7) are the first of four straight home contests for the Buckeyes before their second true test of the season Dec. 20 against North Carolina in Chicago. It will be hard to quantify how much Ohio State gained from their narrow road loss to the Cardinals before that date with the Tar Heels, but it certainly seems that the Buckeyes youth matured in Louisville.
The most highly touted of the four freshman that head coach Thad Matta has used in his rotation, D'Angelo Russell, lead the Buckeyes in scoring against the Cardinals. He was Ohio State's point guard for most of the second half as senior Shannon Scott struggled.
"D’angelo, even though he didn’t shoot the ball well from the field we thought he competed well and the pressure didn’t bother him," assistant coach Dave Dickerson said. "Putting him on the basketball in the second half really paid dividends for us, but the bottom line was we just couldn’t, the first half we dug a hole for ourselves and hopefully we can chalk this up as being Dec. 2nd and hopefully get better from here. Which we will."
Russell finished with a team high 17 points, six rebounds and seven assists, the only Buckeye to record a helper. Perhaps even more promising for the freshman was the fact that he overcame a poor shooting night (6 of 20) and slow start to score 10 of Ohio State's final 14 points.
Better yet for the Buckeyes, Russell wasn't the only freshman to contribute in a single-digit loss to a highly ranked team. Redshirt freshman Kam Williams finished with seven points while Jae'sean Tate, the first reserve off the bench in both halves, had a team-high seven rebounds.
"The easiest thing for us to do is go tell our guys we did a great job of coming back and obviously we did, we showed some toughness and Kam did a great job of knocking down some threes," Dickerson said. "Jae’Sean Tate just played like an animal which is good for us. And then D’Angelo, we’re going to need him to play well for us this year. I thought those guys settled down where the moment wasn’t too big for them in the second half."
It wasn't just the freshman getting involved. Sophomore and first-year starter Marc Loving was the Buckeyes second leading scorer with 13 and helped lead the comeback by 11 of the team's first 19 points after intermission before fouling out.
The Buckeyes got their first loss against Louisville this season, but it seems they gained some valuable experience.
“It’s our first time on the road, a lot of new guys, a lot of new faces that had never put the jersey on," senior Sam Thompson said. "We’ve got to learn from it, we have to."