COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State got through two games without the good version of JaQuan Lyle, but it was never going to last.
The better, more disciplined version of the sophomore point guard arrived just in time. After two subpar outings to open the season, Lyle delivered 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. That performance helped Ohio State beat Providence, 72-67, in a key nonconference game for the Buckeyes.
In the first half, Lyle poured in 15 points as Ohio State surged out to a 10-point lead. He only scored eight points combined in the Buckeyes’ wins against Navy and North Carolina Central. His play was energetic and his execution was crisp. Providence couldn’t stop him.
“He looked like Magic Johnson out there in the first half,” Providence head coach Ed Cooley said.
Lyle attributed his play to a renewed focus before the game. He said he watched more film, spent more time in the gym and approached the game with a better mindset. It paid off big time. Providence couldn’t defend him in the first half and had to adjust its scheme at halftime to account for him. It wasn’t just scoring, either. As noted above, he filled out the stat sheet and came close to a triple-double. And as head coach Thad Matta said, he played better defense, too.
“I thought JaQuan played like he’s capable of playing,” Matta said. “I thought he was more aggressive. As I told the team afterwards, he actually played some defense, which was exciting to see.”
Why can’t he do that every night? “That’s a good question,” Lyle said with a laugh. “I have no answer for that at all.”
He did it on Thursday night, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. However, Ohio State will need more games like that in order to reach its full potential. The good version of Lyle can’t be a part-time presence.
“If he plays at that level, I think they can be very, very good,” Cooley said.