Ohio State men’s basketball (7-3, 2-0 Big Ten) returns from a four-day rest period at noon Saturday to host William and Mary (6-2). The Buckeyes had faced six teams over a 12-day stretch prior to the break, four of those games coming against opponents with winning records and one being against Wisconsin in Madison, that ended with a dramatic second-half, 71-62 victory against Michigan on Monday.
Here is a rundown of what to expect in Ohio State’s matchup against William and Mary Saturday.
William and Mary:
G — Matt Milon — Redshirt sophomore, 6-foot-5, 195 lbs., 15.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 0.8 apg
G — Connor Burchfield — Senior, 6-foot-4, 180 lbs., 13.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.6 apg
G — David Cohn — Redshirt senior, 6-foot-2, 168 lbs., 10.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 7.1 apg
F/G — Justin Pierce — Sophomore, 6-foot-7, 168 lbs., 14.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.4 apg
F — Nathan Knight — Sophomore, 6-foot-10, 235 lbs., 20.3 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.9 apg
G — C.J. Jackson — Junior, 6-foot-1, 175 lbs., 13.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.8 apg
G — Musa Jallow — Freshman, 6-foot-5, 200 lbs., 4.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.3 apg
F — Keita Bates-Diop — Redshirt junior, 6-foot-7, 235 lbs., 17.4 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 1.4 apg
F — Jae’Sean Tate — Senior, 6-foot-4, 230 lbs., 13.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.0 apg
C — Kaleb Wesson — Freshman, 6-foot-9, 270 lbs., 11.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.7 apg
Scouting William and Mary
Statistically speaking, William and Mary is one of the better offenses Ohio State will face all season. The Tribe averages more than 86 points per game. It has done this by being extremely accurate shooting all season, ranking 19th in field-goal shooting percentage (50.8 percent) and second in 3-point shooting (47.3 percent).
But what really has the Buckeyes nervous about the matchup has been the Tribe’s ability to shoot from 3-point range.
Ohio State could barely keep up with Michigan in the first half of the game Monday, especially from beyond the arc. The Wolverine offense spread the Buckeye defense all over the court and opened up plenty of good looks from 3-point range. Michigan took advantage of those chances, shooting 7-for-16 in the first half. But Ohio State rallied in the second half to shut down Michigan’s ability to shoot the 3, holding them to just 1-for-12.
Head coach Chris Holtmann said he hopes that second-half success against Michigan is able to carry over into a full game against William and Mary, but said he believes this is a better shooting team than the Wolverines.
“They shoot it better than Michigan across the board,” Holtmann said. “They’ve got more prolific 3-point shooters than those [Michigan] guys. But they do have some similarities in how they play and certainly their ability to spread you out.”
Four of the Tribe’s five starters have made at least 47.6 percent of 3-point shots this season, with the only exception being forward Nathan Knight. But Knight will provide his own challenges for the Buckeyes.
The second-largest player on William and Mary’s roster in terms of both height and weight, Knight has been the catalyst for the Tribe’s offense this season. He is tied for 79th-most rebounds per game in the country with 8.6, and is tied at 43rd in points per game at 20.3. On the other end of the court, Knight has continued to be an oft-overwhelming force for he sits at No. 12 in the nation in blocked shots per game with 3.13.
Joining Knight at the forward position is sophomore Justin Pierce. The power forward has also proven to be a prolific scorer with 14.4 points on the season, while shooting an effective 10-for-21 from beyond the arc. Pierce leads the team with 9.5 rebounds.
Holtmann said that while his center Kaleb Wesson and forward Keita Bates-Diop will be charged with being the two primary defenders, the other three players on the court will also have to step up to provide coverage of the two Tribe forwards given William and Mary’s ability to spread the defense.
“We’ve talked not just those two guys, but all of our guys about how we want to defend those,” Holtmann said. “[Knight’s] a really good athlete who can score in the low-post and score in the long-post as well. Then [Pierce] is what you’d expect with the kind of a spread-you-out four, type of a team . . . He’s a good athlete. He’s bouncy. He can make 3s that are really high clip.”
The starting point guard for Ohio State
Junior guard C.J. Jackson began the season as Ohio State’s only true point guard, but did not start in either of the past two games for the Buckeyes against Wisconsin or Michigan. When asked after the game if Holtmann was trying to send a message, he stated emphatically that he was, and that turnovers were a big part of the reason he did not play. He is averaging 3.1 turnovers per game. Redshirt senior guard Kam Williams has started in his place in the lineup while senior forward Jae’Sean Tate has run the offense through the point.
On Friday, Jackson and Holtmann talked about how beyond just the turnovers, Jackson needed to improve his communication and on-court leadership.
However, coming off back-to-back games where Jackson came off the bench and racked up double-digit point totals, Holtmann said he “may start him” against William and Mary.
“I think he knows that his minutes will be pretty consistent as long as he can continue to try to do what we’re asking him to do in terms of limiting his turnovers,” Holtmann said.