Ohio State has been a team of surprises this season.
Keita Bates-Diop is making a serious run for Big Ten Player of the Year, Ohio State is 10 games above .500 and the Buckeyes are undefeated in conference play after being picked to finish lower than 10th in nearly every preseason poll.
Yet perhaps the most surprising story of the 2017-18 season has been the play of graduate transfer guard Andrew Dakich. The former Michigan Wolverine poured in a career-high 11 points, all in the first half, to help spark the Buckeyes to a 91-69 win over Maryland on Thursday night, the most points he claims to have scored in a game since his senior year of high school.
Dakich has scored in double figures just twice this season, but his impact has been more than noticeable for Ohio State, especially in the last three games. Against Iowa, Dakich dished out five first-half assists on the road against Iowa, with starter C.J. Jackson plagued with foul trouble. In an upset win over Michigan State, Dakich contributed three helpers and three points, all of which came on a buzzer-beating three-pointer from about 35 feet to end the first half against the Spartans.
INJECT THIS INTO OUR BASKETBALL-STARVED VEINS. pic.twitter.com/pdOBKms4Xg— Eleven Warriors (@11W) January 7, 2018
The impact that Dakich has made on Ohio State this season has surprised even his head coach, who recruited him out of high school while at Gardner-Webb.
"I did not expect this. We saw him (in high school) and liked him as a player. Son of a coach, tough, competitive. Probably needs to keep his mouth shut out there a little but on the floor," Chris Holtmann said with a smile.
After five years, Holtmann found himself at Ohio State with just one scholarship point guard on the roster in Jackson. Holtmann said he and his coaching staff considered looking at nearby recreation leagues for a possible backup point guard, just to fill a roster.
When Dakich became an option to transfer to Ohio State, however, Holtmann said there was no hesitation to take him because of the intangibles he brings to the team.
"The only reason it wasn't a gamble was because I knew who we were getting, more as a young man, as a teammate, as a guy that was going to really want to be here and really want our team to win," Holtmann said. "All of those things checked off. Those are the things you worry about with fifth-year guys."
In terms of what Ohio State was going to get on the floor from Dakich, though, Holtmann said he wasn't sure what to expect when the season started.
"We saw practice footage, which was really the only thing you could go off of," Holtmann said. "I think the practice footage didn't show a whole lot. So we didn't expect this. He has been so much better defensively than I anticipated. I think that speaks to his maturity and his understanding. Being well-coached for four years with (Michigan head coach) John (Belein).
"I would be lying if I said I expected this."
Dakich played a career high in minutes in addition to his career best scoring output against the Terrapins. He shot 4-of-5 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from three-point range and added four assists and two rebounds to his stat sheet.
His energy has also played a role in his success, and perhaps the team success as well. Following his lone two-point jumper of the game, which capped a 9-2 Ohio State run that tied the game at 22, Dakich pounded his chest and looked in the direction of his family sitting in the corner of the Schottenstein Center, bringing most of the 12,014 in attendance to their feet.
For Dakich, staying aggressive offensively was something he noted entering the game. After Holtmann said in his Wednesday press conference that Dakich would need to be ready to shoot more shots, the fifth-year player said he took notice of his coach's comments, but gave credit to his teammates for his success against Maryland.
"I have to give the credit to the other guys on my team. We attacked and they were just able to find me," Dakich said. "They over-helped if anything, because I am I am usually not a high-volume shooter. Being able to knock those shots down was a great feeling.”