Devin Royal's Performance at Michigan State Gave A Glimpse of What Could Be For the Ohio State Freshman’s Future

By Josh Poloha on February 27, 2024 at 1:05 pm
Devin Royal
Dale Young – USA TODAY Sports

Dale Bonner will get all the credit for hitting the game-winning shot with 0.2 seconds remaining, and deservedly so.

But if it wasn't for Devin Royal stepping up and giving Ohio State his best game to date of his freshman campaign, Bonner wouldn't have even had the opportunity to knock down that 3-pointer to give the Buckeyes a big-time upset win over Michigan State in East Lansing, ending OSU's 17-game road losing streak that dated back to Jan. 1, 2023.

Then again, if it wasn't for Royal's poise and finding Bruce Thornton on the in-bounds play for Thornton to then get the ball to Bonner, leading to the game-winner, the ending of that game could have looked much different, too.

“That was players making plays. And it started, honestly, with Devin Royal and his poise taking that out of bounds,” Diebler said after the game.

Diebler continued to praise Royal on Monday during his weekly radio show.

“People point to Dale’s shot, not to minimize that, but Devin’s poise taking the ball out of bounds for a freshman with no timeouts, it was incredible,” Diebler said.

Jamison Battle – Ohio State's second-leading scorer this season (14.2 points per game) and the Big Ten's most accurate 3-point shooter (44%) – missed Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, which made it all the more important for the Buckeyes’ young players to step up.

“People point to Dale’s shot, not to minimize that, but Devin’s poise taking the ball out of bounds for a freshman with no timeouts, it was incredible.”– Ohio State interim coach Jake Diebler

Scotty Middleton received the first start of his freshman campaign in place of Battle, but it was Royal who made the most of an increased role, culminating in him playing a huge role in the game-winning play. But before that final sequence, Royal was arguably the best player on the court for Ohio State in the second half, at least offensively.

“The most important thing playing basketball is always being ready,” Royal said after the game. “So me, I'm just going to be ready every time my name's called and do the best I can.”

Trailing 32-22 at halftime, the Buckeyes leaned on Royal to create offensively throughout the final 20 minutes. He made all five of his shots and had 10 points in the second half (all of which came in the final 13:50), allowing Ohio State to erase that 10-point deficit and outscore Michigan State 38-25 in the second half to win on the road.

​“I feel like we just needed some type of little spark or a little energy,” Royal said. “So I just wanted to go out there and give all the energy I had until I was tired or needed to come out. Just give all of my energy and make the best of it.”

While it was his second-half performance that stood out, Royal took advantage of his increased role throughout his 18 minutes of action. He totaled 14 points and two rebounds while shooting 6-of-8 from the field and finished with a game-high plus-12, all of which were career-high numbers for the Pickerington, Ohio native. With OSU struggling to find any rhythm offensively, the 6-foot-6, 210-pound forward used his size, strength, and athleticism to find mismatches.

Besides Royal, the Buckeyes shot just 32% from the field. In all, Ohio State shot a dismal 37.9% from the field against the Spartans. It’s the first time since Feb. 20, 2016 (65-62 OT win at Nebraska) that OSU shot below 40% and won on the road. The Buckeyes had lost their last 24 games on the road when shooting below 40% from the field.

But it was their teamwork and stepping up in key situations on both ends of the floor that played a key role in Ohio State leaving East Lansing with a win.

“We put a lot of work in,” Royal said. “To finally get a dub on the road, it just feels great to us.”

A top-50 recruit in the 2023 class, Royal has needed some time to adjust to the collegiate level in his freshman season – particularly defensively – but it’s evident that Royal has the potential to be a player Ohio State can build around in the future.

Royal is averaging just 3.7 points and 1.9 rebounds in 9.2 minutes per game for the season as a whole, but he has played at least 12 minutes in each of the last five games and seven of the last nine games overall, showing that he is gaining more trust from the coaching staff.

And after his career-best performance on Sunday, Royal has some of the best numbers analytically among OSU players playing at least five minutes per game.

Devin Royal: By the Numbers
Stat Rank Among OSU Players Averaging 5+ MPG
20 PPG Per 40 minutes in B1G play 1st
60.7 FG% 2nd
+5.4 net rating 5th
12.0 total rebound % 3rd

Diebler is excited about Royal’s future after his breakout performance over the weekend.

“He stayed in the moment and he stayed aggressive. He got the one shot blocked and, you know, he stayed aggressive after that,” Diebler said. “Even going back to high school and AAU, he's always been productive and he has worked hard, he's studied the game more and he has continued to just build and build and build and I think we're seeing kind of the fruits of the labor pay off so I'm so happy for him.

“Again, the biggest play of the game for him was the poise he showed taking the ball out of bounds. In this setting, for a freshman to do that, so proud of Devin. I think he's got just a really, really bright future and we have no reason not to believe that he's going to do some really good things this year for us."

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