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Keita Bates-Diop injury is a major blow for Ohio State basketball

NCAA Basketball: NC-Asheville at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Ohio State Buckeyes need to rebound from their tough 0-2 start to the Big Ten schedule.

Now they’ll have to do so without their most versatile player after junior forward Keita Bates-Diop will have surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left knee.

Bates-Diop missed Thursday’s game against Purdue with “leg soreness”. Earlier in the season he missed five games due to a high ankle sprain to his right leg suffered in a game against Providence on Nov. 11. After returning to the lineup on Dec. 6 against Florida Atlantic, Bates-Diop averaged 21.3 minutes per game over six games leading up to Thursday night.

In nine total games played this season the 6-foot-7 wing averaged 9.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while shooting 50% from the field. With his athleticism, length and ability to stretch the floor Bates-Diop has proven himself to be the Buckeyes most versatile threat. He has helped the team on both ends of the glass and often served as a strong third scoring option for Thad Matta’s squad.

“Keita is done for the season. He’s going to have surgery next week and that’s definitely a punch in the gut to us,” Matta told reporters, according to the Ohio State blog 11 Warriors. “It is what it is. We’ve got to keep moving forward.

The Buckeyes have struggled to find offensive consistency early in the season, and the loss of a veteran leader like Bates-Diop is a massive blow to a team that is finding it difficult to finish off games.

The 76-75 loss to Purdue was hard enough. The Buckeyes had a chance to win as close to a “must win game” as an January contest could be only to fall short. With their next three games coming at Minnesota, at Wisconsin and against a hot Michigan State team at home an 0-5 start to the Big Ten campaign looks like a real possibility.

In reality this Buckeyes squad is not a tournament team without Bates-Diop. His length, shooting ability and defense were notably absent in the loss to Purdue. Already shorthanded due to Bates-Diop’s injury the Buckeyes were unable to play intense defense in the second half after Trevor Thompson, Micah Potter and Jae’Sean Tate got into foul trouble in the first half.

Early wins over UConn and Providence don’t look as impressive anymore. Now with terrible loss to Florida Atlantic and the lack of a quality win, or any win, in Big Ten play so far the Buckeyes are reeling and their schedule won’t get any easier. It’s been a long and difficult year for the Ohio State basketball program and without Keita Bates-Diop the season will get a whole lot tougher to watch.