The Basketball Buckeyes Are Back by Jesse M. Brake

With three and a half minutes left in the first half and the Ohio State Men’s Basketball Team up on Maryland 34 – 24, Senior Forward Jae’Sean Tate drove into the paint from the right wing.  The defense collapsed, leaving former walk-on and former Wolverine wide open for three in the corner.

With an opportunity to shoot, Andy Dakich, the graduate transfer from Michigan, took it and drained his third triple of the night.  The trio of 3 pointers gave him the same amount against Maryland as he made during his entire 3 year career at Michigan, while also putting Buckeyes up 13 in a game they would go on to dominate in the second half.

The Ohio State possession I just described is indicative of what this team has grown to become over the last few weeks.  There is no argument over who the best player is, nor is there an argument about the amount of talent on the roster.

Forward Keita Bates-Diop, the Big Ten scoring leader, is now in many minds the favorite to win Big Ten Player of the Year honors, but after Keita, there doesn’t seem to be any clear NBA-level talents on the roster.  This general lack of elite talent means Ohio State should have issues matching up against top teams, and in the early part of the season we saw exactly that play out.

The Buckeyes could not keep up with teams like Gonzaga and UNC.  They struggled to string together stops and to make the tough shots.  The other issue that gave many fans doubts about this team was a serious lack of leadership over the past two years.  Throw in a controversial head coach firing and the late hour at which it occurred and you get a team that many were worried could struggle with identity, decision-making, mental toughness or any number of off-court issues.

The early losses to Butler and Clemson, both coming after holding double-digit leads late in the second half, seemed to confirm our suspicions that this would be a rebuilding year.  Everything seemed to be pointing toward another unexciting season for Ohio State basketball, except one thing… They beat everybody else.

There were no losses to Florida Atlantic.  There were no losses to UT Arlington or Louisiana Tech.  Even more impressive were their early season Big Ten wins, handing Wisconsin its worst loss ever in the Kohl Center, 83-58, and then beating a solid Michigan team at home.

After a loss to #5 UNC in the CBS Sports Classic, the Buckeyes beat Miami (OH) and Iowa, and entered a matchup against the #1 team in the country with an undefeated conference record.  The team had done what it needed to do.  They weren’t surprising anyone too much yet, but, if you were really paying attention, you saw a team that was gelling.

They had their ups and downs, but under Head Coach Chris Holtmann, they were improving every single game. And so, the Basketball Buckeyes beat #1 Michigan State.  The reason they won is the same reason why this team is so much fun to watch.

They did it with the little things and one big thing.  This team is a team that plays hard on every play.  They fight for loose balls. They clog up passing lanes. They make the extra pass on offense and they’re all learning to take the open shot.

Of course it helps that they have a Keita they can feed when no one else’s shots are falling, but against Michigan State and again against Maryland the reason Bates-Diop was so extremely effective was because players like Kam Williams, CJ Jackson and even Andrew Dakich were stepping up to make plays when the defense sold out to stop their star player.

Over the last couple years, the complaints piling up against this team were many, but most of them boiled down to a team that didn’t care. This team plays like they care, and when good teams play like they care, they win games.  It also helps that Andy Dakich is draining threes.

Comments

  1. Daniel Etoroma says:

    This was a very good post. Inspirational for anyone who loves sports. I like the mentality of the team people can learn something from it

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