Virginia coach Tony Bennett may have said it best.
"They’re very athletic and talented; they’re just inconsistent with their youth,” he said after his team dispatched the Buckeyes 64-58 as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
That athleticism and talent showed plenty as the Buckeyes played their best game of the season, but so did the youth and inconsistency as they struggled to execute efficient offense at times down the stretch against the Cavaliers and fell for the fourth straight game.
“In the same breath it’s bittersweet," Ohio State forward Jae'Sean Tate said. "It’s bitter we lost, but it feels good to know that we’re getting better each and every game to the point where we’re able to compete with top-10 teams. We know what we’re capable of. Just taking each day in practice just to get better to get better prepared for our next opponent and see how far it can take us.”
Even without starting point guard London Perrantes, Virginia is unquestionably the best team Ohio State has faced through six games this season, and I'm confident in saying the Buckeyes played better than they had in any of their first five games.
Still, timely turnovers and inabilities to get into their offense quick enough against a good Virginia defense cost them, as it should against a Top 10 team. Ohio State is not nearly as good as the Cavaliers, but showed on Tuesday that they might be closer than the record indicates.
A four game lossing steak sounds bad, but Tuesday was actually a positive for the Buckeyes.
Here are some other observations from the loss:
Lacking a lock-down defender: Ohio State played good team defense against Virignia, holding a team that had been averaging 81 points to just 64, but couldn't get key stops when they needed to.
That was largely because of Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon. An All-American last season, the guard lit up the Buckeyes for 22 points with six threes and prompted Thad Matta to call him one of the best players he's seen.
While the defense was better, the absence of a lock-down defender showed. In year's past the Buckeyes have had one guy who's primary mission was to stop the other team's best player. That guy doesn't exist on this team.
"You miss an Aaron Craft or a Sam Thompson, guys that you say, ‘hey I don’t want him to score anymore.’ And no one on this team has been in that position for us," Matta said. "But it is what it is and that’s why the component of team defense is so important to us because we don’t have that guy that’s thinking, ‘My job is just to lock down and defend.’ Can we get there? Who is that guy going to be?"
Giddens the freak: Daniel Giddens continues to impress me with his athleticism. The center finished with four blocks in 25 minutes, including one he volleyball-spiked to mid court and another he sent out of bounds, leading to a five-second violation on Virginia.
"We haven’t gone against a team that can block shots like that yet," Bennett said.
Marc Loving adding one block while JaQuan Lyle had two to give the Buckeyes seven on the night, but Giddens was a star in that regard.
He needs to learn how to pick his spots as he currently tries to swat everything and takes himself out of rebounding position, but he is the best shot-blocking Buckeye since at least Dallas Lauderdale and his ceiling is much higher in all aspects.
Lyle disappears: While Lyle did have the two rejections to go along with four assists against two turnovers, he was absent on offense. The point guard finished with just three points and hit just 1 of 6 shots. This is one game after his best outing against Memphis.
“JaQuan didn’t shoot the ball particularly well tonight, I thought he had some decent looks," Matta said. "JaQuan had a good game the other night. What we have to get to is where everyone is sort of hitting their stride every time we take the floor.”
To be fair, some of the misses were in-and-out, but Lyle needs to be a bigger part of the offense if this team is going to succeed.