Kaleb Wesson did not know how dominant he had been in the first 10 minutes of Saturday’s 76-62 win against Rutgers.
“I really wasn’t paying attention,” he said. “I was just playing. I was getting lost in the game.”
Wesson scored 17 of Ohio State’s first 20 points, connecting on all eight of his first shot attempts. He finished the game with 27 points, making 10-of-12 from the field and 3-of-4 from deep.
But for the sophomore forward, it meant more than just points on the board.
Wesson took the court, and from the moment the ball was tipped, he played like the face of Ohio State. He was the player that, with his offensive aggressiveness, almost single handedly gave the Buckeyes an insurmountable lead midway through the first half.
This was the Wesson Ohio State was expecting to see all season, the player that Ohio State ran its offense through, the one who defined the success for the team as a whole.
Wesson provided something that head coach Chris Holtmann has strived for all season long: consistency.
“We need consistency out of a number of guys,” Holtmann said. “I don’t think this team, you can pin it on just one guy.”
As Ohio State has struggled during league play, Wesson has not been able to make as much of an impact as he had against Rutgers.
Over the past five games, he has recorded 21 personal fouls compared to 13 made field goals, fouling out in two of his past three games.
Without recording a foul until the second half, Wesson played a career-high 38 minutes, playing more than 30 minutes for only the second time this season.
Wesson said he has never been one to stay out of foul trouble, saying his game relies on his size and physicality. However, he said his approach has shifted into focusing on what he can personally do to stay on the court, to control what he can control.
“It’s been a tough stretch of games. I haven’t been scoring a lot,” Wesson said. “You know, it just felt good to let the ball go in the rim, my teammates finding me. It felt good.”
Wesson views himself as an emotional player, one whose first reaction is to react.
But he said his approach against the Scarlet Knights was different: to show refs his hands more, leading to only his fifth game this season with two fouls or less.
“I think he has taken strides in that, but, you know, it’s not going to be the last time that he gets frustrated in a game with how teams are playing him,” Holtmann said.
But when he is on the court, Wesson is the one teams plan for. Holtmann said opponents look at the sophomore forward as Ohio State’s main gameplan.
The head coach said Wesson needs to continue to be aggressive offensively, in some cases, taking over games with his ability to use his size, but also step back and take a 3.
Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell said Wesson’s ability to step back and shoot consistently from deep made it hard to trap him in the post.
“I think he kind of took what the defense gave him,” Holtmann said. “We knew he was on a roll and a lot of that was just within the flow of the offense.”
This is the Wesson Holtmann had been glowing about since the summer, praising his ability to shoot, his ability to be a leader for Ohio State as a sophomore.
And when he was on the court against Rutgers, not limited because of fouls, it’s the player that Wesson became.