Well, it appears that nonconference Kam Williams is back in full force.
After a quiet first game of the season, the Ohio State sophomore exploded for 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting for the Buckeyes in their 82-55 win over Grambling State. That type of performance became typical of Williams in the nonconference last season as he scored in double figures seven times before Big Ten season got underway but was held scoreless 11 times in conference play.
Williams addressed those inconsistencies with the media before the season and while it's hard to take much away from his career-high performance against the lowly Tigers, it's a good sign that six of his nine made field goals came inside the 3-point arc, proving that he isn't a one-trick pony. He added a career-high five rebounds and an impressive four steals for the Buckeyes in what was probably his most balanced performance at Ohio State.
“I think if I’m always in attack mode, that’ll impact me not only on the offensive end, but on the defensive end," Williams said. "I feel like when my defense is at a high level, that helps me play better. I feel like if I’m locked in on defense, my offensive game will just fill in for itself.”
That's what happened against the Tigers and Buckeye fans have to hope it's a sign of things to come beyond just the nonconference.
Aside from Williams’ solid performance, here were my major takeaways from a win over a team that entered the contest ranked dead last in Ken Pomeroy's rankings.
Too Many Fouls: The teams combined for a ghastly 42 fouls in the game, with Grambling committing 23 to Ohio State's 19. The Buckeyes were in the bonus about four minutes into the game, making the contest almost unwatchable at times. While that can partially be attributed to players and refs adjusting to new rules and points of emphasis, it's also a sign of a young team. I get Grambling's fouls -- they were physically overmatched and forced to grab as Buckeyes drove past them -- but Ohio State needs to play more disciplined. Thad Matta has to hope that comes with time
Free-Throw Woes: The Buckeyes were pretty terrible from the line Tuesday, hitting just 13-26 (50 percent). That came despite a perfect 3-3 from Keita Bates-Diop and 3-4 efforts from Dave Bell and Marc Loving. Daniel Giddens was the worst offender, going 0-5 but he combined with Jae'Sean Tate, Trevor Thompson and JaQuan Lyle to hit just 1-11.
“In all seriousness in the two scrimmages and the first game we shot free throws pretty well," Matta said. "A couple guys were not very good form the line. I told them that – free throw shooting – and turnovers were my major concerns tonight after the game.”
Turnovers: After committing 18 in the season opener, the Buckeyes gave the ball away 17 times against Grambling State. Again a sign of youth, the Buckeyes have to clean that up. Every positive comment that Williams and Bates-Diop made in the postgame press conference came with the qualifier -- "aside from the turnovers."
“I think it’s a combination of just being agitated, sloppiness and laziness at the same time," Bates-Diop said. "We’re being sped up and in practice we don’t really shoot the gaps like they did today so that was kind of the first time someone really got out in the passing lanes.”
Three-Point Spurts: The Buckeyes started strong from three, hitting five of their first seven attempts from behind the arc. They cooled off from there, missing their next seven attempts. Ohio State finished 9-of-25 from distance, meaning they finished 4-of-18.
It is a solid sign, however, that six different Buckeyes made a 3. Williams had three while Austin Grandstaff had two. Tate was 1-2 for his third make of the year to match last season's total in just two games. Loving, Bates-Diop and A.J. Harris each knocked in one as well. I think all six of those players are capable of being consistent threats from deep this season while Lyle could make it seven legitimate 3-point shooters for the Buckeyes.
KBD The Man: While Williams led the Buckeyes in scoring this night, I think Bates-Diop is the most likely candidate to emerge as the team's go-to scorer. He can put the ball in the basket in more ways than anyone else on the team. His shot is solid from deep, while his length allows him to get to the basket without being unbelievably quick. That length also allows for him to have a fall-away jumper from the post any time he wants it, a shot he hit on two occasions against Grambling. Tate might be the emotional leader and Loving is the elder statesmen, but if the Buckeyes need a basket this season I bet they go to KBD.