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Men’s Basketball: Guard C.J. Jackson overcomes early struggles against Radford to put up strong performance

Ohio State junior guard C.J. Jackson (3) talks with head coach Chris Holtmann during a timeout in the first half of the game against Radford on Nov. 12. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

Zero points, zero assists, four turnovers.

Ohio State junior point guard C.J. Jackson’s statline was not good when he sat on the bench with head coach Chris Holtmann in his ear early in the first half.

“At the beginning my mind was sped up a little bit,” Jackson said. “I was trying to make the home-run play and once [Holtmann] pulled me to the side he just told me to hit singles. And that’s what I tried to do once I came back in.”

Jackson slowed his mind down and found his rhythm to overcome his rough start. The 6-foot-1 point guard helped lead Ohio State to an 82-72 victory against Radford at the Schottenstein Center Sunday. He finished with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Holtmann wants his point guards to be able to facilitate for others while avoiding turnovers. Jackson began the Buckeyes’ matchup with the Highlanders turning the ball over on the opening possession.

Jackson proceeded to commit three more turnovers in the first seven minutes of the game before Holtmann subbed him out with 13:21 remaining in the first half.

Senior forward Jae’Sean Tate said he and Jackson both have to work on reducing turnovers as the team’s primary ball-handlers, but praised his teammate’s ability to respond to adversity.

“Once coach pulled him out I went over to him like, ‘Look bro, there’s a lot of basketball to be played,’” Tate said. “And once he got out there and saw a couple shots going in and hit the singles like coach said, then he just took over the game — more aggressive, he found his rhythm and he made everybody around him better too.”

Holtmann only sat his starting point guard for 3:18 before calling his number to check back into the game. Despite leading 15-14, the Buckeyes had already committed seven turnovers while converting on only five shot attempts.

After a two-minute lull in scoring for the Buckeyes, Jackson hit a 3-pointer to give Ohio State a 18-14 lead with 15:14 remaining in the first half. Jackson’s 3-point basket sparked a 13-0 Ohio State run and the Highlanders did not come within eight points for the remainder of the game.

Holtmann said Jackson has been making great strides at the point guard position and commended his coachability and willingness to improve.

“I thought he responded well,” Holtmann said. “Obviously outside of his turnovers, I thought he was pretty good defensively and I thought he — he can make shots, he can really shoot the ball.”

The Eastern Florida State transfer played his first season at Ohio State last year, but only started nine games, primarily serving as Jaquon Lyle’s backup. Jackson’s stats were unimpressive. He shot below 40 percent and averaged less than six points per game. However, he came on strong to finish the season, averaging 10.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game in his final seven games.

After Lyle quit the team in April and transferred to New Mexico, Jackson became the sole point guard on Ohio State’s roster. In his second season at Ohio State, Jackson has been thrust into a much larger role as the team’s floor general at the Division I level. Holtmann admitted there will be some growing pains for the JUCO transfer.

“He’s got a big load, right,” Holtmann said. “He’s against pressure, he’s our primary ball-handler. We’re going to live through his mistakes. I’ve been really pleased with a lot of his growth.”

Jackson hopes he’ll be able to avoid early statlines like he had Sunday and find his rhythm from the opening tip.

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