Ohio State has looked good in winning its first two games, but that may not be good enough when the No. 16 Buckeyes host tenth-ranked Villanova on Wednesday in Columbus.
Despite home victories of 64-56 over Cincinnati and 76-56 against the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann is concerned about the Buckeyes’ slow starts.
They went nearly eight minutes without scoring against their in-state rival and Sunday fell behind 6-0 nearly four minutes into the UMass Lowell game.
“I don’t think we’re an offensive juggernaut right now by any stretch,” he said.
The matchup with Villanova is part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games that honors Big East founder Dave Gavitt.
The Buckeyes will need to be sharper against Villanova, which has not played since opening its season with a 97-54 victory over Army on Nov. 5.
Villanova coach Jay Wright sounded a bit like Holtmann in assessing his own team’s performance.
“We still have a lot of room for improvement,” Wright said. “We were kind of sloppy with the ball with 17 turnovers. We’ll work on that. We knew we would have things we’d have to work on after this. But this was good for us.”
He hadn’t started two freshmen in a season opener since his second season at Villanova in 2002 until Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Justin Moore were in the first five last week.
Robinson-Earl had 24 points and 13 rebounds. Moore had eight points, four rebounds and four assists. The Wildcats were led by 22 points from sophomore Saddiq Bey and 18 from sophomore Cole Swider off the bench.
What Wright really likes is the how the Wildcats limited Army to 31.3 percent shooting from the floor (20 of 64), including 7 of 30 from 3-point range.
“When they get it going up and down, they can really wear you out,” Wright said of Army. “I thought we did a really good job of running with them, getting back on defense.”
Villanova will have to contend with a balanced Ohio State attack led by junior forward Kaleb Wesson, who had 13 points and 13 rebounds in 26 minutes against UMass Lowell.
Wesson lost more than 25 pounds in the offseason down to 270 on his 6-foot-8 frame and is more agile and active as evidenced in him drawing nine fouls against Cincinnati.
“The way he’s playing the game right now is tremendous,” Holtmann said.
Wesson is looking forward to seeing how the Buckeyes rate against one of the best teams in the country.
“We’re always excited for our next game, our next opponent,” he said. “It’s a top 10 team so it’s probably a team with more talent.”
The Buckeyes will be without Wesson’s older brother, senior forward Andre Wesson, for a second straight game after he took an inadvertent elbow from a teammate during the Cincinnati game and sustained a fractured eye socket that could keep him out at least another week.
–Field Level Media