Chris Holtmann's career as Ohio State's basketball coach started with an easy win.
Ohio State cruised to a 95-64 win over Robert Morris on Friday night in its first game of the 2017-18 season, which was also Holtmann's first game as the Buckeyes' coach.
Holtmann admitted he was more anxious going into Friday's game than he thought he would be, but he is glad to now to have his first win as Ohio State's coach to his name.
"I didn't think I would be anxious, but I think you want to perform well for your home fans and your first opportunity to be in front of them," said Holtmann, who replaced Thad Matta as Ohio State's coach in June. "You want your players to perform well for themselves. So I was more anxious and tied up probably than I thought I would be yesterday and today. So I think getting that under our belt was good."
Keita Bates-Diop, who missed the final 18 games of last season with a stress fracture in his left leg, achieved a double-double in his return to the court, leading the Buckeyes with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Freshman center Kaleb Wesson, in his first game as a Buckeye, scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Fellow freshman Musa Jallow scored 11 points – including a trio of high-flying dunks and a three-pointer – in his Ohio State debut. The other member of Ohio State's freshman class of 2017, Kyle Young, scored his only four points of the game on a pair of dunks in the final minute.
After allowing Robert Morris to take a 6-2 lead early on a pair of three-pointers by Matty McConnell, Ohio State went on a seven-point run to take a 9-6 lead and never looked back, rolling to a 46-26 lead over the Colonials before halftime.
The Buckeyes had little trouble finishing out the game in the second half, extending their lead to 30 points with 9:01 to play before ultimately winning the game by 31.
Ohio State was efficient shooting the ball in its first game of the season, making 60 percent of its shots from the field, while outrebounding the Colonials 51 to 23. Holtmann was disappointed, however, that the Buckeyes lost the turnover battle in Friday's game, 19 to 18.
|OHIO STATE||STAT||ROBERT MORRIS|
|40-67 (60%)||FGM-FGA (PCT.)||23-65 (40%)|
|5-18 (28%)||3PM-3PA (PCT.)||10-25 (40%)|
|10-17 (59%)||FTM-FTA (PCT.)||8-10 (80%)|
"We had some really good moments here tonight," Holtmann said. "Overall, we had some good moments, some really good moments and hopefully we can build off of it."
The starters for Friday's season opener were Bates-Diop and Jae'Sean Tate at forward, Micah Potter at center and C.J. Jackson and Kam Williams in the backcourt. Williams was the Buckeyes' second-leading scorer with 16 points. Tate, the Buckeyes' leading scorer from last year, scored seven points, while Potter added eight and Jackson, who led the team with six assists, also scored seven.
The Buckeyes used a rotation of 10 players in the first half of Friday's game, with Andre Wesson and Andrew Dakich joining Kaleb Wesson, Jallow and Young. Andre Wesson tied his career-high with nine points while Dakich, in his first game as a Buckeye after transferring to Columbus from Michigan, did not score any points but contributed five assists.
Ohio State eventually cleared its bench in the final two minutes of the game, inserting former walk-on Joey Lane and current walk-ons Matt Lehmann and Connor Fulton into the lineup, with Lane scoring one point on a free throw.
McConnell and Koby Thomas each scored 22 points to lead the Colonials in a losing effort.
"Unfortunately, we did our best to kick the Chris Holtmann era off in a positive way," Robert Morris coach Andrew Toole deadpanned to start his postgame press conference.
After the game, Ohio State introduced its new postgame tradition – a longtime postgame tradition of the Ohio State football team – by gathering in the middle of the court to sing Carmen Ohio.
The Buckeyes will look for their second win of the season on Sunday at 2:30 p.m., when they return to Value City Arena to play Radford.