Both Ohio State (2-0) and Radford (1-1) seemingly tried its best to lose Sunday’s game with both teams piling up fouls and turnovers. But in the end, it was the Buckeyes who survived the sloppy play to beat the Highlanders 82-72.
After the game, though the stat sheet showed a win for the Buckeyes, only one thing stood out to senior forward Jae’Sean Tate.
“Turnovers,” he said.
Ohio State committed 19 fouls and turned the ball over 15 times. Radford turned the ball over 15 times and committed 26 fouls.
The Buckeyes’ improved discipline in the second half appeared to be the difference maker. After turning the ball over nine times in the first half and committing nine fouls, the Buckeyes posted just six turnovers and 10 fouls, respectively, in the second half. Radford, on the other hand, continued to run into foul trouble, tallying 13 fouls in the second half.
The team looked much more disciplined for most of the second half, but head coach Chris Holtmann said he really was only going to focus on the negatives. For him, that was the entire first half.
“I didn’t particularly care for the start, really the first half,” Holtmann said. “I just didn’t think we had quite the mindset we needed to have at times.”
If there was any highlight for Ohio State, it came from guard C.J. Jackson, who finished the evening with 19 points, three assists and six rebounds.
The night did not start out well for Jackson, however. The team’s lone point guard appeared to be trying to force too much to happen with the ball in his hands. He committed four turnovers, including one on an in bounds pass and another on a bounce pass from outside into the paint.
But after sitting down on the bench and talking with assistant coach Ryan Pedon extensively, Jackson played with more energy. He knocked down a 3-point shot 30 seconds after returning to the game. Two minutes later, he added another 3 to his scoresheet, gathered a defensive rebound on the next Radford possession and knocked in a close-range jumper to add to the Buckeyes’ lead.
“Once coach pulled him out, I went over to him like, ‘Look bro, there’s a lot of basketball to be played,’” Tate said. “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.”
With plenty of fouls and turnovers, the game began as a topsy-turvy matchup with five lead changes coming in the first 7:16 of play. The final lead change during that time span came when freshman forward Kaleb Wesson caught a pass a few feet from the basket, surveyed the court for an open Buckeye before sinking a mid-range jumper to put the Buckeyes on top 11-10. Ohio State led for the remainder of the game, however Radford kept it close.
Senior Andrew Dakich turned over an inbounds pass leading 15-12 and Radford guard Carlik Jones tipped in his own missed shot to bring the game back to one point.
From that moment, Ohio State outscored the Highlanders 29-20 the rest of the first half to extend its lead to 44-34, fueled predominantly by Jackson and redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop, who combined for 16 points.
Throughout the game, Bates-Diop was able to impose his will on the smaller Radford defense. The 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward finished the game with 22 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double in as many games. He went 8-for-17 from the field, including 3-for-7 from beyond the arc, and made all three of his free-throw attempts.
The size gap was apparent between the two teams from the start, but the Highlanders had a plan to minimize the impact the gap had. Radford played aggressive defensively, often deploying a full-court press on the Buckeyes. The HIghlanders also waited back on every in bounds pass, and often would wrap up the point guard taking the ball out. Still, there was only so much they could do. The Buckeyes dominated inside the paint, outscoring the Mountaineers 34-22 from inside.
Holtmann attributed a bulk of the ability to score in the paint to the strong rebounding demonstrated by both Tate and Bates-Diop throughout the game.
“Yeah those guys got, obviously JT and Keita both have a real nose for the ball,” Holtmann said. “I was pleased with their ability to go get it and I think they’re a really good offensive rebounding team, so that’s something we really hammered. And I think we did a pretty good job keeping them off the glass.”
Coming out of the break at halftime, the Buckeyes came out playing much improved defense, preventing the Radford offense from getting much of anything going.
Bates-Diop knocked down a 3-pointer just 20 seconds into the half, but after that, it took two minutes for another team to score. But 3 1/2 minutes into the half, the Buckeyes exploded out for a 12-1 run over the next 2:08, quickly extending their lead to 61-35.
Ohio State struggled to find the net for some time after that, managing only 21 points over the remaining 14 minutes of the game. But it continued to play strong defense to limit the Highlanders. They only put up 27 points of their own to fall 82-72 to Ohio State.
Ohio State will look to build on the 2-0 start to the Chris Holtmann-era at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Schottenstein Center when it hosts Texas Southern.