2/4: 89-85 W @ Iowa
The Buckeyes became the first team all season with 5 or more ranked wins and 4 ranked road wins vs AP Top 25 opponents, with an overall record 5-1 vs AP Top 25 (and USA Today Top 25) teams. It was also Ohio State’s 6th straight win vs Top 10 opponents. The Buckeyes were down 61-50 early in the second half, which led to a 91.7% win probability for Iowa, yet the Buckeyes willed their way back with the help of back-to-back Duane Washington threes. This was a game of the year candidate, with 18 lead changes, 5 ties, and a combined 28 threes (14-32 for Ohio State, 14-31 for Iowa).
In terms of the NCAA tournament, the Buckeyes might have the strongest case for a #1 seed outside of Gonzaga, Baylor, and potentially Michigan. Ohio State has seven Quadrant 1 wins, the most in the country. Ohio State entered the Iowa game #12 in NET, #12 in BPI, and #10 in KenPom. The Buckeyes were also #7 in ESPN’s strength-of-record metric, which analyzes a team’s resume. Following the Iowa win, these metrics will improve. The NET had the Buckeyes at #8 following the win, and the Buckeyes started to get the national recognition that they deserved up to this point of the season.
2/8: 73-65 W @ Maryland
The Buckeyes’ eight Quadrant 1 wins (was nine until the NET refresh overnight) outpace the rest of the sport. OSU is 8-3 in Q1 and also has six road wins, which matches Baylor and Gonzaga for the most among non mid-major teams. Monday night’s win at Maryland moved OSU up from No. 7 to No. 6 in the NET. Maryland is no easy task, with Eric Ayala leading the Terrapins offensively, as well as Aaron Wiggins. The Buckeyes were able to stave off Maryland, and continue their stride heading into a trap game against an Indiana team that was coming off huge performances against Iowa.
2/13: 78-59 W vs Indiana
Prior to the game, the NCAA Selection Committee announced their Top 16 teams (4 per region), and Ohio State was a projected #1 seed, along with Gonzaga, Baylor, and Michigan. This very well could have been Ohio State’s best performance of the season against Big Ten opponents, and they came ready to play from the start. No messing around with Indiana this year.
2/18: 92-82 W @ Penn State
Entering this game, Ohio State had a record of 8-3 against Quad 1 teams, and 2-1 against Quad 2 teams. Their SOS was ranked 13th, and NET was 6th nationally. The wins over Penn State are also helpful resume builders, as Penn State has become a competitive, trendy upset pick among Big Ten teams this season. They had the Buckeyes on their heels in this one, especially for the majority of the first half. In one of the highest scoring first halves all season, the teams combined went into intermission with Ohio State leading 47-43, which was their most productive 1st half all season long. EJ Liddell had 23 points for the game, including 17 in the first half, while Duane Washington finished with 21 in a big 2nd half performance. CJ Walker had 13 points and 7 assists off the bench, and Ohio State’s 92 points was enough to overcome Penn State’s 12 3-pointers. Ohio State trailed late in the the 2nd half, before going on a huge 12-0 run in under 2 minutes to take a lead (and momentum) that proved to be too much for an upset-hungry Nittany Lions squad.
2/21: 92-87 L vs #3 Michigan
HOLY GAME OF THE YEAR CANDIDATE. This game was full of high-powered, high-quality Big-Ten-caliber basketball. 2 national title contending teams playing their best basketball. For Michigan, that “elite defense” gave up 87 points to Ohio State’s top 5 offense, while the Buckeyes lost their first game of the season when giving up over 80 points. Duane Washington had a career game, with 30 points, and had nearly everything going in. EJ Liddell had 23 points, and CJ Walker had 15 for the Buckeyes. After that, everyone was relatively quiet, and with Ohio Stste up 65-61, Justin Sueing had a horrible turnover that led to a Michigan 6-0 run to take the lead. That was ultimately the turning in a game that saw freshman center Hunter Dickinson dominate the Buckeyes in the 2nd half, while the Wolverines hit 10 first half threes. What was unexpected was the downfall this game would have on OSU to finish the month.
2/25: 71-67 L vs Michigan State
I will keep this game’s review short. Duane Washington was awful, EJ Liddell shot poorly (everyone did), but the officials screwed the Buckeyes in this game on several occasions, to the point where Chris Holtmann got ejected for two technical fouls at varying points in the game; one during the game, and one when the game was essentially decided. The Buckeyes offense let them down in this one. Kyle Young’s absence (concussion) clearly had a huge impact in this game.
2/28: 73-57 L vs #9 Iowa
Holding Iowa to 73 points is a tough task, so for Ohio State to score 57 points is flat out unacceptable, even with Kyle Young back in the lineup for the Buckeyes. Chris Holtmann put CJ Walker back in the starting lineup for Justin Ahrens, but the move made no difference for the reeling Buckeyes. Duane Washington was awful again, and the Buckeyes were decimated by turnovers in this game. Now, Ohio State has fallen to #7 in the AP Poll, and of the #1 seed line for the NCAA Tournament to Illinois. Ohio State has fallen out of the top 4 of the Big Ten standings, meaning they would only be securing a bye for the Big Ten Tournament, rather than a crucial double-bye. Those 2 losses to Purdue, the 1 point loss to Northwestern, and blowout loss to Minnesota have really come back to hurt the Buckeyes when they need wins most.
This month was great, until the losses happened. Now, Ohio State has to end the streak by defeating a hot Illinois team that is playing without their best player, Ayo Dosunmu. Dosunmu is one of the best players in the country, averaging over 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. He was coming off multiple triple-doubles before breaking his nose in a loss to Michigan State, when the team announced he was out until the Big Ten Tournament. Ohio State needs to capitalize on this opportunity, but it won’t be easy.
Photo: Amal Saeed