Ohio State (4-0) defeated Northeastern (2-2) with ease 80-55 Sunday afternoon at the Schottenstein Center. Senior forward Jae’Sean Tate and redshirt junior Keita Bates-Diop led the way for the Buckeyes with 24 points and five rebounds, and 19 points and seven rebounds, respectively.
Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann praised the way they have set the tone for the rest of the team through not only their play on the floor, but also through their mental preparation and fortitude.
“Players win games,” Holtmann said. “(Tate and Bates-Diop) are guys that have ability and yet their approach has probably matched — in a lot of ways — their ability. That is filtered down to all of our guys, so hopefully that will continue. Those guys have led the way for sure.”
Northeastern played at Stanford Friday night and perhaps the team was a little sluggish after traveling across the country before taking on Ohio State. The Buckeyes took advantage of the slow-starting Huskies, out-hustling them to loose balls and diving on the floor to make plays.
Just two minutes into the game with the score still close at 4-2, freshman guard Musa Jallow stole the ball and threw it deep down the court. It appeared a Northeastern player was going to steal Jallow’s pass, but Bates-Diop raced down the court and gathered the ball. The 6-foot-7 forward quickly fired a pass to junior guard C.J. Jackson, who cut to the basket for the layup.
Tate aggressively attacked the Huskies’ defense from the opening tip, scoring 11 points in the first five minutes of the game. The 6-foot-4 forward finished with a career-high 24 points and made 10-of-10 shots, setting a school record for the most shots made without a miss in a full game. Tate’s aggression and the hustle of Bates-Diop helped the Buckeyes jump out to a 15-2 lead.
Tate credited his teammates, and particularly Jackson, for allowing him to take advantage of mismatches in the paint. He emphasized the importance of everyone doing his job and playing hard in order to achieve success in games.
“It’s mind-blowing how hard this team plays on the court,” Tate said. “We’re having fun out there.”
Seven minutes into the game, Northeastern redshirt sophomore guard Donnell Gresham Jr. made a 3-pointer to cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 17-7, the closest the Huskies would come for the rest of the game.
The game’s most exciting play came nine minutes into the game when redshirt senior Kam Williams poked the ball loose on defense. As Williams tried to recover the steal, Bates-Diop dove across the floor to grab the ball. Bates-Diop attempted to find a teammate to pass to from his rear end, but a Northeastern player deflected the pass.
Bates-Diop somehow recovered the ball and threw an outlet pass to redshirt senior Andrew Dakich from his backside. Bates-Diop then quickly got to his feet and sprinted down the floor, outrunning all Huskies and catching the unconventional give-and-go pass from Dakich for a thunderous dunk. The two-handed slam ignited the home crowd and gave the Buckeyes a 21-7 lead.
“It was just fun out there,” Bates-Diop said. “Everyone was playing hard, going on a big run — that kind of capped it off and it was just an exciting moment.”
Holtmann noticed Bates-Diop waving his arms to pump up the fans at the Schott and said it was good to see him playing hard and showing emotion, which is rare for the soft-spoken forward.
“I think (Bates-Diop) looks like he’s having fun,” Holtmann said. “It’s fun to play hard and to kind of cut loose and play and leave it out there.”
After his hustle led to a momentous dunk, Bates-Diop found a rhythm, scoring five more points in a two-minute stretch. The versatile forward used an array of moves to score near the rim and also drained a 3-pointer in a defender’s eye, pushing Ohio State’s lead to 30-9 with eight minutes remaining in the first half.
The Buckeyes first-year coach said pushing Bates-Diop to give more effort takes his game to another level because he is already athletic and skilled.
“Keita’s got to play full throttle to be at his best,” Holtmann said. “I think we’ve challenged him with playing with a great motor. When he does that, he’s just really hard to handle because of his natural ability.”
Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said the biggest difference in the game was Ohio State’s front line and physicality. The Buckeyes outrebounded the Huskies 38-29 and outscored them 48-26 on points in the paint. Although Northeastern had a size advantage, Ohio State played with much more energy from the jump.
“I certainly wasn’t pleased with the first half effort,” Coen said. “Maybe we were a little intimidated, maybe we were a little jet-lagged — whatever it is — there’s no excuse for it. But (in) the second half, I was proud of our response to that adversity.”