Too many turnovers and ineffective backcourt play spelled doom for the Buckeyes, who lost to Iowa Saturday for their third Big Ten loss in a row.
Coach Chris Holtmann mentioned how worthless and even deceiving a national ranking really is when the Buckeyes were at their height with a 12-1 record.
Then Michigan State happened. Then Rutgers happened. And now Iowa has happened.
It has been three unsightly losses in a row, and it’s beginning to look like writers who cover the Big Ten knew what they were doing pegging Ohio State to finish eighth in the conference way back in October.
Michigan State was a competitive game almost down to the wire, and spectators leaving The Schott had to be a little upbeat.
But Rutgers pulled off a 64-61 victory on Wednesday night mainly because Ohio State botched its chance to nail down the game in the waning moments. By the way, the Knights were hammered 88-70 at Minnesota yesterday, and it wasn’t that close.
Then Iowa absolutely schooled the Buckeyes 72-62 with its length, depth and changing defenses on Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Holtmann always credits opponents afterward, and he gave the Hawkeyes (14-3, 2-3) a little pat on the behind.
This loss, though, fell strictly on the players wearing scarlet and the coaches who put them on the floor. There were 21 turnovers that resulted in 18 points at the other end, and once again the officials played a game of ticky-tacky in refusing to let Kaleb Wesson play his game from the start.
“The key to the whole game was our turnovers,’’ Holtmann said. “We had some good moments and had some guys do some really good things. I think we played really hard at times, but the turnovers and our defense in the second half were the difference. I just think it had to do more with our poor decisions and carelessness with the ball.’’
There was one change going into tip-off, and that was senior C.J. Jackson not starting for the first time this season. He entered with 14:45 left in the first half.
The other changes were by necessity when 6-foot-9 freshman Jaedon LeDee came on for Wesson and Musa Jallow and Justin Ahrens made a difference in rare early appearances when Jackson and Keyshawn Woods were ineffective in just about everything they did. In order, the three bench guys were averaging 3.1, 11.7 and 6.2 minutes before yesterday.
One wonders whether the kids will continue to get on the floor earlier and stay around longer.
It couldn’t hurt, right?
Jackson continues to struggle at the point. He had four turnovers, one in the backcourt versus man pressure, and lost his dribble about 40 feet from the basket.
Here’s thinking Jackson would be more comfortable and even thrive as mostly a shooting guard.
But who mans the point?
Freshmen Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington should get long looks.
Woods, a senior graduate transfer from Wake Forest, went 1-for-5 with three turnovers. He is 3-for-17 in the last three games.
His more serious problem is self-doubt. Too often he’ll penetrate the lane, have an open shot or open man and then hesitate, allowing the defense to collapse on him. He’ll get an open shot on the wing and give up the ball.
Keep in mind that Holtmann has preached to Woods about being more aggressive since the first weeks of the season.
Ahrens made the most of his 10 minutes. He buried a couple of three-pointers, took down three rebounds, forced a turnover and jump ball and had a steal.
Jallow showed some quickness at both ends, and you can tell that LeDee is athletic and likes to mix it up.
The good news is that Ohio State has five whole days to recover and find a way to get back on its feet before mighty Maryland comes to town on Friday night for a national television game.
Fans can be sure that Holtmann won’t start throwing things in the locker room or panicking.
“We do have some guys searching right now, and our job as coaches is to be honest but also give them some hope and some confidence about what they can be and what we can be collectively,’’ he said. “We’re not thinking about anything beyond just the next practice and how do we improve.’’
There won’t be anyone coming off the bench and turning into the find of the Big Ten season.
Can Jackson turn it around? Yes, certainly, he can. He was a gem last season during the drive to 25 victories and a runner-up finish in conference.
Woods, though, was beaten down by years of losing big at Wake Forest.
As for Kaleb Wesson, he’s at the mercy of NCAA rules that apparently want the game to become no touching allowed and a jump shooting contest as fast as possible.
Wesson appeared to be innocent of all charges on his first three fouls.
“I don’t think he is being officiated particularly well, but there are times when the fouls are fouls,’’ Holtmann said. “It requires great discipline for him as big as he is and the amount of attention he demands.’’
You can be sure that Holtmann spent a good portion of last night thinking about what he and the staff must do to plug some of the leaks.
“We’ve got to find ways to get better,’’ he said.