Thad Matta said prior to his team’s game against Louisiana Tech that he would know early on how his young team responded to last Friday’s loss to UT-Arlington.
It wasn’t pretty early and an opening 7-0 run from the Bulldogs was a sign of things to come as the Buckeyes dropped their second straight game, falling 82-74 to Louisiana Tech in a game they never lead.
Matta changed up his starting lineup, inserting freshman Daniel Giddens for Trevor Thompson, and the Buckeyes showed better energy out of the gate hauling in five offensive rebounds on their first possession, but Ohio State couldn’t finish. It was indicative of things to come.
Multiple times throughout the game the Buckeyes drew even with the Bulldogs, but every time they failed to finish the run and allowed Louisiana Tech to hit a three and go on one of their own.
"We can’t relax," sophomore Jae'Sean Tate said. feel like we relaxed when we tied it up. We’ve just got to learn for the remainder of the year to keep our foot on the pedal and keep those runs going and at the defensive end we’ve got to dig even deeper.”
After the Bulldogs opening run the Buckeyes answered with six straight and eventually tied the score at 12. A 10-2 Louisiana Tech run that featured back-to-back threes from Dayon Green followed.
The Buckeyes clawed their way back in it with an 11-5 run, tying things at 25 on a jumper from Keita Bates-Diop. Again they couldn’t finish as Ohio State allowed the Bulldogs to go on a 9-2 run to again create separation.
That run, like each that followed a tie score, started with a three but was driven on dribble penetration. The Bulldogs consistently got inside the Buckeyes defense and either kicked it out for a long-range shot or got all the way to the rim.
"We could not keep the ball in front of us," Matta said. "I think from the standpoint of what we work every day in practice, where the ball can’t go in the paint and you’ve got to guard for 15 seconds, I can’t explain to you how much time we spent from Friday night’s game going into this game on guarding the basketball. Just our positioning, we picked up some fouls and how you can you foul him if you have your feet right where they’re supposed to go? Those are things we just have to keep drilling.”
Ohio State cut things to 42-38 at the half, but the second period featured more of the same.
Matta experimented with the lineup throughout the game, forgoing a center for long stretches of the game to match thhe Bulldogs small-ball lineup and giving more minutes to freshman Austin Grandstaff. The shooting guard responded with 9 points, all from three, but it wasn’t enough.
The Bulldogs built a 50-40 lead 3:10 into the second half, their largest of the night, but a transition dunk from Bates-Diop got the Buckeyes going and the junior followed with a tipin. Lousiana Tech answered with a three, but Marc Loving scored five straight, part of a career-high 25-point effort, to keep the Buckeyes close.
A Loving free throw would tie things again at 55.
“We know what Marc’s capable of," Tate said. "He showed it tonight, we just need him to continue to do that but also the rest of the team has to play much better. It just can’t be him, but from the stand point of the team, our defense, we gave up too many offensive rebounds. That’s going to be key. It all starts on the defensive end and it will trickle down on the offense.”
Again a Bulldogs run was coming. This one was a 10-2 spurt that gave Louisiana Tech the lead for good and Ohio State would not be within one score the rest of the night.
Bates-Diop followed Loving with 12 points while JaQuan Lyle and Tate had 10 apiece. Giddens had four in his first start.
Turnovers were a problem again for the Buckeyes as they committed 14 while the team struggled from the free-throw line, hitting just 17-of-27.
The Bulldogs hit 10 threes and outscored the Buckeyes 40-36 in the paint.