Ohio State Turns Focus to PK80 Invitational Following Blowout Win Over Northeastern

By James Grega on November 19, 2017 at 5:50 pm
Chris Holtmann

The first four games of the Chris Holtmann era have come and gone, with Ohio State coming out a perfect 4-0 to start the 2017-18 campaign. 

Now comes the hard part. 

The Buckeyes are set for a trip to Portland, Ore., to appear in the inaugural PK80 Invitational on Thanksgiving night, with their first game coming against last season's national runner-up in Gonzaga. 

Ohio State's second game in the tournament will come against either Stanford or Florida on Friday, closing with a third game in as many days next Sunday. From there, the Buckeyes are set to return home for a matchup against Clemson before opening conference play with games against Wisconsin and Michigan. 

The upcoming stretch for Ohio State is one that Holtmann called the most challenging of his career as a head coach. 

"It's good to be 4-0 given that we are heading into a stretch unlike any I have ever coached in," Holtmann said following the Buckeyes' 80-55 win over Northeastern on Sunday. "In non-conference, I don't know that I have ever went through a stretch like this. I haven't, where it's game, after game, after game coming right at you."

For Ohio State, the theme through two games was eliminating turnovers, as the Buckeyes accumulated 34 giveaways combined in wins over Robert Morris and Radford. In its two games since, Ohio State has cut that number to 19, in games against Texas Southern and Northeastern. 

One glaring statistic that Ohio State will likely have to improve on in its upcoming slate of games is its outside shooting. The Buckeyes have combined to shoot just 12-of-43 from long range in their last two games, but that isn't the area Holtmann is concerned with heading into the PK80 Invitational.

“It’s good to be 4-0 given that we are heading into a stretch unlike any I have ever coached in.”– Chris Holtmann on Ohio State's start to the season

"I think for us, we are just saying 'Can we improve how purposeful we are on both ends, offensively and defensively,'" Holtmann said. "We will shoot it better from three, for sure. We will have games where we shoot it much better from three. I believe that. I just want to see us play more purposeful and I want to see how our lineups work."

Ohio State has used two different starting lineups this season. Kam Williams started the first two games of the season at guard for the Buckeyes before freshman Musa Jallow was inserted in the starting lineup prior to the win over Texas Southern. 

Jallow's defensive ability is what earned him the starting job, as the rookie guard has collected six steals in his two starts as a Buckeye. Holtmann said he is interested to see how his already fluid lineup might change as Ohio State's level of competition ramps up. 

"When we go to the bench, what are some bench lineups that we can use that can be effective for us? I am still trying to figure that out," he said. 

In terms of bench production, freshman forward Kaleb Wesson has seen the most minutes for the Buckeyes. Against Northeastern, Wesson played 23 minutes, scoring 12 points, hauling in five rebounds and converting on 6-of-8 free throw attempts. 

Senior forward Jae'Sean Tate, who broke a school record for highest field goal percentage in a game against Northeastern, said while Ohio State's upcoming stretch is daunting, the Buckeyes' entire focus is on the next game, which comes against a team that was one win away from a national title a season ago. 

"Our whole mindset is just getting ready for Gonzaga," Tate said. "I know we have a (tough) stretch coming up, but that is our whole mindset. As long as we prepare the way we have been and we are all dialed in from the start, I think we are going to do some big things."

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