Ohio State’s men’s basketball team defeated Wooster 88-63 in an exhibition game in head coach Chris Holtmann’s inaugural game as the Buckeyes’ head coach Sunday at the Schottenstein Center.
Redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop led the Buckeyes in both points and rebounds, 17 and nine, respectively, as the Fighting Scots had no answer for the length and ability of the redshirt junior forward. Senior forward Jae’Sean Tate set the tone defensively by recording four steals to go with his 10 points and five rebounds.
Holtmann said Bates-Diop might still be shaking off some rust after recovering from a fractured leg that forced him to redshirt last season, but looks further along than he expected. The new coach added that solid play from the leaders of the team is essential to success.
“(Bates-Diop) and (Tate) are gonna need to be consistently very good for us to have a chance to close games out,” Holtmann said.
The Buckeyes imposed their will, jumping out to a 12-0 lead to start the game. Ohio State appeared physically superior to Wooster by soaring for rebounds beyond the reach of the Fighting Scots and scoring through contact as the Buckeyes out-rebounded the Fighting Scots 46-44.
Wooster broke the shutout with 14:57 remaining in the first half on a 3-pointer by junior guard Simon Texidor as the Fighting Scots rode a 9-2 run to cut the lead to 14-9.
Potter sparked the home crowd and his teammates when he corralled a loose ball, nimbly crossed over behind his back and finished with a powerful two-handed dunk with 6:19 remaining in the first half. Potter finished the game with 10 points and five rebounds over his 18 minutes on the court.
Ohio State ended the first half on a 13-6 run.
Ohio State struggled from the charity stripe early, but began to turn it around towards the end, eventually finishing 27-for-37 from the line. Free throws represented an area the Buckeyes struggled with last season when they finished No. 249 in the country, connecting on only 68.2 percent of attempts.
Four newcomers — freshmen Musa Jallow, Kyle Young and Kaleb Wesson and redshirt senior Andrew Dakich — saw their first action in Scarlet and Gray with 14:15 remaining in the first half. Young and Jallow were slow to get started in the game, but both finished with six points. Wesson finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, both second on the team to Bates-Diop.
The freshmen admitted to having butterflies before the game, but said they calmed down as the game progressed.
“You just try to find your flow within the team and just try to get your feet wet at the beginning,” Jallow said. “And then once you get going and get a good lather going, then you just settle in and play.”
Despite leading 39-22 at halftime, Ohio State struggled shooting beyond the 3-point line (0-for-11 in the first half). Ohio State continued its issues from beyond the arc for the remainder of the game as it finished 3-for-24 in 3-point attempts. Besides the 3-point shooting of Texidor (5-for-9), Wooster also had difficulty shooting from distance as the rest of the team shot 5-for-23 from beyond the arc.
Four-and-a-half minutes into the second half, Bates-Diop hit Ohio State’s first 3-pointer of the game. Redshirt senior guard Kam Williams followed his teammates lead by connecting on a 3-pointer of his own on the next possession to give the Buckeyes a 54-33 lead.
The Buckeyes starting lineup featured junior C.J. Jackson at point guard, Williams at shooting guard, Bates-Diop and Tate at the forward positions, and Potter at center.
Following the victory, Kaleb Wesson answered a question regarding Holtmann’s message to the team.
“Just keep your head down and keep working,” Wesson recalled. “Celebrate it for now, but then tomorrow we’re right back at it — just get right back in the gym and work.”
Although Ohio State won, Holtmann said the Fighting Scots exposed the Buckeyes by beating them to loose balls and preventing them from finishing through contact.
“We’ve got a long way to go and we are very much a work-in-progress,” Holtmann said. “There were some good things that I think we can build off of, but we’re going to need to be a lot better moving forward.”
The Buckeyes have a week to work before the regular season begins at 7 p.m. Friday at the Schottenstein Center against Robert Morris.