The Ohio State Buckeyes suffered a loss on Wednesday night to the No. 6 ranked Virginia Cavaliers in the annual Big Ten/ACC challenge by the final score of 63-61.
This loss is not deflating in terms of their overall record because they’re still at a respectable 6-1, but there’s no mistaking that this was their first real test of the season which they came up short.
The Buckeyes had the last possession with six seconds left to tie or win the game, but JaQuan Lyle missed couldn’t convert from three. Now, whether it was a bad possession or exactly the shot they wanted, the fact is they could not seal the deal.
The 20 team turnovers were a huge factor, none more crucial then the Marc Loving turnover with 22 seconds left which helped extend Virginia’s two point lead to four. The previously mentioned 20 turnovers was also their highest total in one game this season since the season opener against Navy.
There’s a lot of other factors and plays that could be mentioned, but one thing is for certain and it’s that the Buckeyes unlikely duo was surely missed. No I don’t mean Lyle and Jae’Sean Tate, who are the Buckeyes best players, it’s two other guys.
There were two players who started the season on a great note for head coach Thad Matta and that was Keita Bates-Diop and Kam Williams. Though their statistics are not staggering or eye-popping, their contributions are highly important.
For Bates-Diop, his contributions have been more than missed since he went down with an injury during the Providence game on Nov. 17. Before the injury he was averaging a respectable 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in the first three games of the season.
The Buckeyes are a team that has six players averaging double-digit point totals, with the leader being at just 14.3. Going against a ranked opponent like Wednesday’s matchup is a situation where they need every one of those six players to produce or it puts more onus on the others.
Though Bates-Diop will eventually return, they must find a way to overcome his production which is easier said then done, but unlike Bates-Diop, Williams has been on the court and has not performed up to par against quality opponents.
In terms of quality opponents they’ve only had two in Providence and Virginia, but he was non-existent in both games. When they faced Providence he compiled five points on 2-3 shooting and against Virginia he had two points coming from the free throw line. This is notable because on the season Williams is averaging just over 13 points-per-game.
Williams is most likely the best pure shooter on the team and in big games shooting a combined 2-7 from the field will not get the job done. Though his impact or lack there-of could be looked at as a direct correlation to the loss, Bates-Diop’s impact is in-direct because his missing presence affects the team just as much.
If the Buckeyes are to achieve what they could not last season, which is an NCAA Tournament berth, winning against quality opponents must be a priority and these two in particular will need to step up.