There were plenty of takeaways from the Windy City. Here is what I saw during a disappointing Buckeyes loss.
- Sleep walking early: Ohio State did not look ready for this game from the start. The necessary energy wasn’t there, plain and simple. It didn’t feel like the Buckeyes got to any loose balls or made any hustle plays early.
- Bigs a bust again: Speaking of Williams, he was a problem again for the Buckeyes (as were all three post players). The Buckeyes are simply not getting enough production from the 6-11 centers against quality competition.
- Loving lights out: The major positive to take away from the UNC loss is the continued hot shooting of Marc Loving. The sophomore nailed his first three three-pointers and five of his eight attempts on the night. He is shooting a ridiculous 57.9 percent (22-38) from deep so far this year and hitting two per game.
- OSU needs more from Russell: D’Angelo Russell finished with 11 points, five rebounds and eight rebounds. That’s a solid line and the freshman did do a little bit of everything, but he also forced a lot of things against the Tar Heels.
- Inefficiencies inside: That length wasn’t just a problem for Russell as the whole team struggled inside. Ohio State was outscored 34-20 on points in the paint and the Buckeyes guards seemed tentative about attacking the basket.
One of the main culprits was a starting center Amir Williams, who was lethargic in the post early. That forced head coach Thad Matta to go to Trey McDonald early. Jae’Sean Tate entered shortly after and the pair of bench players helped to pick up the energy level, but it was too late.
This has been a recurring theme for Williams: dominate the lesser nonconference teams and fade against better opponents. The thing is, he is still the best interior presence the Buckeyes have and by far the best rim protector in the zone. Williams is a valuable role player forced into a starting spot because of a lack of depth at the position, so in a way he’s been put in a no-win situation.
Williams is what he is at this point. Buckeyes fans just have to hope the good Amir (defense, rebounding and effort) shows up more often than the one that played against UNC.
If Loving can continue to be that successful from outside, it will be a huge boost for the Buckeyes. That is if ….
Russell missed 13 shots (4 of 17), seven from behind the arc. While he needs help from his teammates, Russell needs to be better in big games for Ohio State to have a chance at the win. He’s young, obviously, and certainly is capable of elevating his game. For the Buckeyes to contend in the Big Ten, though, he needs to play better against length.
That timid play led to far too few free-throw attempts. Ohio State shot just two from the charity stripe in the first half, and while they improved in that regard in the second half, 18 total attempts is too few when you’re trying to mount a comeback.