Ohio State guard Musa Jallow walked into the post-game press conference room accompanied by center Micah Potter to speak to the press after the Buckeyes’ 82-64 win against Texas Southern.
Before questions began, Potter had something to say.
“Alright, first and foremost, his name is Musa, right? His nickname is Moose. So social media and stuff, whenever he goes off like he did today, I want y’all tweeting out, ‘The Moose is loose,’” Potter said.
Thursday night, the ‘Moose’ was loose.
Making his first career start, Jallow set career highs with 13 points, six rebounds, four steals, two assists and three 3-pointers.
Jallow said he did not know until around 5 p.m. the day of the game that he would be making the start. He said one of the coaches pulled him aside during shootaround and told him he would be making the start.
Jallow’s performance becomes more impressive when considering the freshman’s youth. The 17-year-old chose to graduate high school a year early and follow head coach Chris Holtmann from Indiana to Ohio.
Had he still been in high school, he said he would still be starting, but on a different court.
“I think my high school played tonight,” Jallow said. “But I’d probably be in the gym [if they didn’t have a game], thinking about this moment right here.”
In his first game played this season, Jallow made an early impact. He finished his first collegiate game with 11 points on 5-of-8 shots from the field. But his second collegiate game was more of a struggle. He finished with just one point on a single free-throw, went 0-for-2 from the field and had four fouls.
Holtmann said for someone so young, those on-and-off games will be a trend.
“I think he wanted to play better than what he played the other night, and he’s got to understand that his season is going to be a lot like that,” Holtmann said. “I’ve told Kyle Young, I’ve told Kaleb [Wesson] that, they’re just going to have moments where they’re going to feel uncomfortable, they’re going to feel like they’re lost and they’ve just got to respond accordingly, come back to practice the next day and get better.”
About five minutes into his first career start, Jallow made sure not to have another let-down performance as he drilled just the second 3-pointer in his career. Five minutes later, he added another. By this point, he already had three assists, the first three in his career.
Jallow missed a 3-point shot, but quickly rushed to the scrum happening in front of the basket where multiple players were battling for possession. The ball was tipped up and Jallow grabbed and slammed it for a resounding dunk to extend Ohio State’s lead to 19-15.
He finished the first half with 10 points, but had only three points in the second half. However, he had a couple of key steals late in the game, including an athletic swipe with 5:54 remaining in the game to give the Buckeyes possession. Ohio State had watched its lead shrink to just four after leading by 13 at halftime.
Though Jallow’s first-half points were important, his second-half performance stood out the most to Holtmann.
“His backline deflections late were really critical,” Holtmann said. “Musa coming over and getting some of those deflections and having awareness to do that speaks a lot about his — to me, that was as impactful as anything.”
And for Jallow, that’s exactly the kind of outing he wants. He said after he knows he will not put up 30-plus points per game, but if he can play sound defense late and gather some crucial rebounds for the team, he will be more than happy with the effort.
That impact is something the rest of the team believes will become a trend moving forward for the 17-year-old. Potter and Holtmann both cited the performances Jallow had in the gym during preseason practices, from a rebounding and defensive perspective, as the first signs he was mature for someone of his age.
“Two and a half weeks into the practice, you never know because you’re going against the same guys, but you’re saying, ‘Hmm, he’s maybe a little further advanced than I thought he might be,’” Holtmann said. “You talk as a staff after you evaluate practice and you watch practice and you say, ‘Wow, his impact on the possession offensively and defensively is pretty good.’”
As Potter and Jallow left the interview room and headed back toward the locker room, Potter shouted, “Moose!” As Jallow continues further into his career, that shout might begin to echo if Jallow has more games when “the Moose is loose.”