COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State basketball team improved to 2-0 on the season on Monday night with a 69-63 win over North Carolina Central.
Much like their season-opening win over Navy, the Buckeyes overcame a closely contested second half before pulling away late.
Here’s how it went down:
Why It Happened
After allowing the Eagles to hang around through the game’s first 27 minutes, a 9-2 run punctuated by a Jae’Sean Tate layup pushed the Buckeyes advantage from one point to eight entering the final fourth of the game.
North Carolina Central, however, proved to be a pesky out. Even after Ohio State stretched its lead to double-digits on a Kam Williams 3-pointer at the 6:26 mark, the Eagles fought back to within striking distance on the back of consecutive 3-point makes from guards Rashaun Madison and Ron Trapps.
After the Buckeyes took another 10-point lead on a Micah Potter reverse layup with 1:52 remaining, North Carolina Central trimmed OSU’s advantage in half on a Patrick Cole 3 with 1:05 left on the clock. Despite the Buckeyes’ best efforts to help the Eagles at the free throw line in the final minute, it would prove to be too little too late as Ohio State held on to its six-point lead.
What It Means
While the Buckeyes are still in search of their first dominant win of the season, it’s an encouraging sign they’ve won their first two games with little drama. While Monday’s matchup may have been close, it never truly felt like Ohio State’s lead was being threatened. That’s a trend the Buckeyes will hope continues against overmatched opponents, as the next four teams they will face carry an average KenPom.com ranking of 193.
The Buckeyes’ first true test of the season will come on Nov. 30, when they’ll head to Charlottesville to take on a Virginia team that currently ranks No. 8 in the AP Top 25. Ohio State will surely want to see improvement between now and then, but as the Buckeyes learned last year, a win’s a win — even at this point in the year.
Not only did Tate’s effort standout — it showed up in the box score. The junior forward totaled a team-high 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting and pulled down a team-best 10 rebounds in 37 minutes of action. Tate played a key role in the Buckeyes’ strong start to the second half, scoring five consecutive points in the span of 33 seconds.
Potter also enjoyed a breakout game of sorts, scoring 13 points. Ohio State’s starting center showcased good range and the ability to stretch the defense early, connecting on three 3-pointers in the first half.
It took Marc Loving all of one minute and 15 seconds to pick up two fouls before heading to the bench. The lone senior on the Ohio State roster finished the night with 3 points on 1-of-6 shooting in 17 minutes. He tallied more turnovers (5) and fouls (4) than points.
Who Was There
Ohio State football commit and 2017 4-star athlete Brendon White watched the game from the lower level of the Schottenstein Center. The native of nearby Olentangy could wind up a regular presence at Buckeyes basketball games this winter.
Who Is Next
Ohio State returns to the court on Thursday, when it will host Providence for a 7 p.m. ET tip. In their season debut on Monday, the Friars beat Vermont 80-58 behind 22 points from junior forward Emmitt Holt. Providence’s upcoming trip to Columbus will mark its second game of the 2016-17 campaign. Big Ten Network will carry the game live.