#16 Ohio State Drops Their First Game of the Season to Syracuse

On a night when the all-time winningest coach in Ohio State history, Thad Matta was honored with a banner in the rafters of the Schottenstein Center, the 16th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes did their best to honor the former coach, but fell short, dropping their first game of the season to the visiting Syracuse Orange 72-62 to drop to 6-1.  The length and athleticism on defense combined with uncharacteristic hot shooting from long range for Syracuse was too much for the Buckeyes on this night and Ohio State tasted defeat for the first time on the young season.

Ohio State opened the game in rhythm, hitting their first 4 field goal attempts, including a C.J. Jackson triple to build a 9-2 lead early.  The Buckeyes found some holes in the zone, scoring on a pair of buckets from Andre Wesson at the top of the lane and finding room in the short corner converting on a pair of buckets from that area.  The Buckeyes also scored behind the zone on a nifty lob pass from Jackson to Kyle Young for a dunk, as the Buckeyes led 16-9 heading into the under 12 media timeout.  The next 4 minutes were all Orange as they cranked up the defensive intensity and Ohio State struggled to solve it, turning it over on 3 possessions and Syracuse took advantage, going on an 8-1 run of their own to tie it with just under 8 minutes remaining in the half.  Syracuse took their first lead of the game at 24-21, when they buried their 5th three in the first 20 minutes with just under 6 minutes remaining.  The Buckeyes would answer with a 5-0 run, capped off by a three off the fingertips of Duane Washington from the top of the circle to lead by 2.  Out of the under 4 media timeout, Jackson, in a rare occurrence, missed a pair of free throw attempts and Syracuse capitalized.  The Orange, on a second chance attempt, drilled a 3 from the top to regain a 1 point lead.  The Buckeyes with a couple tremendous defensive stands were able to build a lead back to 4 thanks to 5 straight Jackson free throws before the  the Buckeye lead to 31-29 at the break. Jackson led the Buckeyes with 11 points on 5 of 8 from the line and a pair of threes.  Syracuse, who came into the game shooting 23% from long range on the year, hit 6 of their 13 attempts in the half, while shooting 43.5% from the floor.  The Buckeyes, after starting hot, cooled off, mostly due to the difficult matchup zone employed by the Orange, shooting just 41%, including just 4 of 12 from deep. The Buckeyes led the battle of the glass in the first half, outrebounding the Orange 17-12.

Syracuse opened the second half hot, drilling a pair of threes and opening with a 10-2 run as Ohio State continued to struggle to solve the Orange zone, leading to an early 6-point deficit.  The Buckeyes would battle back. A three from Keyshawn Woods from the left point and after a stop on the defensive end, a wing entry pass from Jackson to Young for a layup tied the game forcing Syracuse to call a timeout with 13:50 remaining.  Syracuse would continue their hot shooting, going on an 8-0 run capped by Elijah Hughes who buried his 4th three of the game, to give the Orange their biggest lead of 7 forcing Chris Holtmann to call a timeout with 10:02 remaining. The lead would extend to 10 as the youth of the Buckeyes began to rear its ugly head, turning the basketball over on back-to-back possessions.  The Buckeyes would creep back in it when Woods buried a 3 off a screen from Kaleb Wesson and as he made the jumper, Wesson was barreled over for a foul.  Wesson would split the pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 7.  But, just when the Buckeyes were beginning to make a run, Syracuse would answer.  The Orange went on a 5-0 run to extend the lead to 12.  The Buckeyes refused to go away, scoring the next 4, cutting the lead to 8 with a bucket in transition off a steal as the teams went into the final media timeout with 3:56 remaining.  The Buckeyes would cut the game to 6 out of the timeout and had a chance to cut the game to 4 when Kyle Young went up for a lay in and a clear goal tend was missed by the officials and Syracuse would take advantage.  The Orange would score the next 4 to build the lead back to 10 and the game was all but decided.  C.J. Jackson led Ohio State with 19 and Kaleb Wesson added 13 and Kyle Young chipped in 12.  The Orange shot 49% from the field, including 11 of 24 from deep that was the difference.  The Buckeyes struggled against the zone all night and couldn’t find their range from deep, shooting just 32.6% from the field including just 6 of 22 from three.  Syracuse committed 28 personal fouls, fouling out 3 players in the process and Ohio State couldn’t take advantage, missing 9 of their 35 free throw attempts.

Sometimes it’s just not your night and this game was just that. Syracuse presents an unusual challenge with their zone and it’s a difficult matchup for a young basketball team.  Combine that with poor shooting and an opponent that seemingly doesn’t miss from the outside, and it’s a recipe for defeat.  The Buckeyes will take this one, learn from it, and be better because of it in the long term.

The Buckeyes won’t have a lot of time to think about this one however as Big Ten play starts Sunday with Minnesota visiting Columbus.  Tip time for that ballgame is scheduled for 7pm on the Big Ten Network.

-Jason Harris

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