Before Ohio State could turn its focus to arguably its most important nonconference matchup this season, it had to play the worst opponent on its schedule.
Ohio State (10-3) annihilated The Citadel (5-7) 94-65 Tuesday night at the Schottenstein Center, four days prior to Saturday’s matchup with last year’s national champion North Carolina.
The Buckeyes made their first five shots and connected at a 59 percent clip from the field in the first half. Senior forward Jae’Sean Tate torched the net on a thunderous right-handed baseline dunk over a defender with 5:15 remaining in the first half to highlight a 15-0 run. Ohio State led 44-23 at the half.
Redshirt senior guard Kam Williams and redshirt junior Keita Bates-Diop each led the Buckeyes with 17 points in the rout.
Tate finished with eight points and five rebounds, while junior guard C.J. Jackson was also in double-figures with 13 points.
Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said there wasn’t much to take from the game, but the season-high 27 assists was one positive for a team that is beginning to foster an offensive identity.
“It shows a willingness to make the extra pass and to move it and make the right play and pass to the open man, and we got to get better at that, “ he said. “I think we have gotten better at that, for sure.
It was never a question if Ohio State would win, but rather the margin of the victory. The 15-0 run toward the end of the first half wasn’t necessarily a direct result of superb ball movement or offensive efficiency. It was ignited by execution in transition and forcing the majority of The Citadel’s shots to be taken from 3-point territory. Ohio State outscored The Citadel 22-0 on fast-break points.
The Bulldogs shoot the 3 nearly as much as any team in the country, attempting more than 33 per game and making more than 11 per contest. Tuesday, they were 13-of-43 from 3 and shot just 32 percent from the field.
The Buckeyes bested them on the opposite end, making 13-of-35 shots from deep. Bates-Diop, Williams and Jackson each made three shots from beyond the arc.
“You just want to get your team’s best shot,” Williams said. “If that means passing up good ones to get great ones, then that’s what we’re going to do.”
Ohio State outrebounded The Citadel 47-39, but allowed 17 offensive rebounds, including 11 in the first half. Holtmann was visibly upset about the team’s rebounding effort Tuesday, noting a lack of aggressiveness that he had been noticing in practice recently.
“That was not good. That was us getting beat to balls, that was us getting bum-rushed and not being physical enough and not pursuing balls with two hands,” Holtmann said. “I’ve got to coach that better and we’ve got to get better at that. That was not good enough.”
The Citadel ranked No. 315 out of 351 teams, according to KenPom, before the game and was 345th in defensive effective field goal percentage. The Buckeyes shot at least 49 percent for the fifth straight game, with 50 percent Tuesday.
Ohio State has now won five straight games and has a grand opportunity for a statement win on its NCAA Tournament resume looming in New Orleans against No. 5 North Carolina at the CBS Sports Classic before the calendar flips to 2018.