Observations: Eagles Grounded

Buckeyes earn another nonconference win. Here's what I saw.

Another nonconference home game, another double-digit win.

Ohio State continued it's run through the hapless competition charged with coming to Value City Arena to face the No. 12 Buckeyes, dispatching Morehead State 87-71.

The Buckeyes started strong, but let their guard down in the second half, giving me plenty to observe on the afternoon.

  • Amir's aggression: This was my biggest takeway from the game. I led with it in my game recap, but Amir Williams made a big enough impression on me that I'm leading this piece with him as well.

    The senior was active and aggressive early, calling for the ball in the post and finishing against the Eagles. The senior finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and five blocks, by far his best all-around performance this season. The team plays better when it can count on production, or at least energy, from their post players and Williams gave them both tonight. While this is my first season covering Williams, I have followed the Buckeyes closely throughout his career and I felt that Saturday was as engaged as he has been since coming to campus.

    Of course, it's not the first time that Williams has looked good in the nonconference and whether or not he can carry over some of that aggression into the Big Ten will go a long way in determining if Ohio State can challenge for a league title.

  • Lots of length: There were multiple stretches were the Buckeyes employed an extremely long lineup Saturday. With 6:03 left in the first half Thad Matta went with a lineup of Williams, Keita Bates-Diop, Jae'sean Tate, Sam Thompson and D'Angelo Russell. That's a lot of length on the court at one time and it makes the Buckeyes' zone, if properly executed, extremely hard to penetrate.

    In that lineup (and the one used minutes later when Marc Loving replaced Tate) puts Thompson (6-7) and Russell (6-5) at the top of the 2-3 zone. That really changes the defensive look of the Buckeyes and led to a number of deflections Saturday.

  • Trusting Bates-Diop: Those long lineups are made a possibility only because Matta's trust in Bates-Diop has increased. The freshman averaged just under 12 minutes a game through the Buckeyes' first seven games, but has averaged over 17 per contest in the past two.

    "For the last week Keita, it’s almost like the light went on and he’s playing with more confidence, he’s playing more aggressive and that’s great to see,” Matta said.

  • Free-throw success: Ohio State entered Saturday's contest connecting on just 68 percent of their free throws. Against the Eagles, however, the Buckeyes hit 21 of their 27 attempts from the line (77.8 percent). Even better for Ohio State, no player missed more than one try from the line. Russell hit on all eight of his attempts while Loving was also perfect on his four shots from the line.

    After hitting just four of his 10 free throws in a loss at Louisville, Thompson hit four of five attempts against Morehead State.

  • 500th appearance: Saturday was the 500th appearance as a head coach for Matta. He has won 385 of those games.

  • Eagles' coach plays to win: Usually Matta is the head coach struggling to get to the postgame podium as his back continues to give him problems. That wasn't the case Saturday as Morehead State head coach Sean Woods is dealing with a torn left Achilles. The coach injured the ligament while running the scout team offense for his team as they prepared for the Buckeyes. That's dedication from the Eagles coach, so while I usually reserve this space for Ohio State observations, Woods deserved a note of his own.

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