CHICAGO — Ohio State got what it came for at the Big Ten tournament, but nothing more.
There was no encore for the big win in the opening round, no revenge after losing twice previously to Michigan State and no chance to see the river dyed green this weekend in the Windy City.
But the Buckeyes appear to be in the NCAA Tournament field thanks to the win over Indiana on Thursday, which should ease the sting on Friday after falling again to the Spartans in a 77-70 loss at the United Center.
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann and his program still might not be entirely comfortable throughout the weekend knowing it could have definitively locked up a bid with an upset of Michigan State. But the attention now shifts to Selection Sunday, which should again be worth celebrating in Holtmann’s second year in charge.
What does the loss mean in the big picture? Can the Buckeyes do any damage next week? Lettermen Row is breaking it down with Three Points as Ohio State heads home from the Big Ten tournament.
Turnover problem flares up again for Buckeyes
Ohio State is getting good shots, its cold streak of jumpers appears to be over and effort on the offensive end isn’t a problem. But the Buckeyes keep hurting themselves with careless turnovers, and that was the single biggest issue in an otherwise productive opening half against the Spartans. Just about the only reason they were trailing at all was because they had given the basketball away 10 times before heading to the locker room — and it was a collective breakdown with seven different players coughing it up at least once. Ohio State is solid enough defensively to make up for some errors, but if it’s hoping to pick up a win in the NCAA Tournament, it must protect every possession.
Breakout performance was no fluke for Keyshawn Woods
A bit of patience was required, probably way more of it than Ohio State would have ever expected. But Keyshawn Woods is building momentum at exactly the right time for the Buckeyes, and his burst of confidence and hot shooting might pay off with another postseason win next week. His offense wasn’t enough to carry Ohio State against the Spartans, especially since he was saddled with early foul trouble and had his opportunities cut short in the first half. But all that matters now for Woods is gearing up to extend his collegiate career in the Big Dance, and if he can keep knocking down jump shots, the Buckeyes can be a dangerous opponent.
Buckeyes need freshmen to get rolling again
Maybe it’s unfair to ask too much of the freshmen as they experience the postseason for the first time. But Ohio State played guys like Duane Washington, Luther Muhammad and Justin Ahrens extensively throughout the year so that they would be ready for the big moments. For the most part, they’ve answered the challenges thrown at them, even if there have been understandable spells of inconsistency. But Ohio State didn’t get the kind of production it needed from those young guns off the bench against the Spartans, and that clearly hurt the deeper into the second half it got. For the Buckeyes to advance in the bracket next week, they’re going to need the future stars to help in the present.