The fight is there for UConn.
The execution? Not so much.
UConn led 47-42 at the 12:20 mark after an Amida Brimah lefty tip-in. Over the ensuing eleven minutes, 52 seconds—up until garbage time, really, when Jalen Adams scored six late points—Ohio State outscored UConn 20-7.
The Buckeyes (8-2) went on to defeat the Huskies (4-5) by a 64-60 final on Saturday in Columbus, as UConn fell to 2-2 in games decided by four points or less this season.
It was déjà vu of sorts for UConn, done in by 16 turnovers (to Ohio State’s seven) and a lack of aggression getting to the free throw line, where UConn went 5-of-9. Ohio State, who has struggled with the freebies all year long, hit 26 of 34 free throws for a +21 made free throw margin.
Trevor Thompson had a monster night for Ohio State, scoring a team-high 17 points while posting a career-high 17 rebounds. JaQuan Lyle chipped in 16 points, and Jae’Sean Tate added 13.
Ohio State overcame a 2 for 18 showing from behind the arc by drawing 27 fouls (UConn drew just 12) and taking closer shots to the rim versus UConn’s zone defense.
Here are five takeaways from a game that will make for a long flight back to Storrs for UConn, who early in the second half had seemingly taken control of the game.
- Some turnovers are just inexcusable…
It’s never good when a team turns the ball over on a quarter of its possessions, as UConn did on Saturday. But it’s incredibly disheartening when two of those turnovers come in crunch time.
Miraculously, UConn tied the game up at 54 thanks to buckets by Amida Brimah and Kentan Facey with 2:40 to play. Out of the under-4 timeout, the subsequent possessions went as follows:
*Jalen Adams lackadaisically dribbling right in front of JaQuan Lyles, who easily picked his pocket, leading to two OSU free throws. Buckeyes lead, 56-54.
*Rodney Purvis getting a dribble handoff from Amida Brimah in the left corner, going way too fast as he is prone to do, and shuffling his feet—the Buckeyes went down and made two more freebies for a 58-54 lead.
On two of the highest-leverage offensive sets of the night, UConn failed to get a single shot off. Worse yet, the culprits are both members of what’s supposed to be a savvy, experienced backcourt.
2. Steven Enoch is a long way from being, well, anything…
So, Steven Enoch averaged 17 points and 15 rebounds for Armenia in the FIBA U-20 European championships this summer, and suddenly his stock rose. Those six meaningless games may end up being the highlight of his basketball career.
Enoch logged 22 minutes against Ohio State. He grabbed five rebounds, and that’s about it. He missed both of his shots from the field, three of four from the line, and had three turnovers as well.
The sophomore has an enviable basketball body…and that’s about it. He scored eight points against D-2 Chaminade in Maui. In the other seven games, he’s dropped 15 points total. He has a long way to go.
3. Vance Jackson was a problem for Ohio State at times…
Out of necessity, due to a few bigs getting in foul trouble and ailing frontcourt depth, Vance Jackson logged some serious time at the power forward spot on Saturday and did some nice things in that role.
Jackson finished with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including 3-of-5 from distance. Many, if not all, of those buckets came with Jackson as the pick-and-pop shooter or in advantageous isolation plays, with the freshman operating at the top of the key and using his go-to spin move to get the shots he desired.
Overall, it was a really nice all-around game for Jackson, who also sported a fresh buzz cut (RIP to the best salad on the team).
4. Get used to seeing this zone the rest of the way…
For the second straight game, UConn played predominantly zone defense, and the results were good enough to steal a victory: Ohio State shot just 34% from the field and scored 0.98 points per trip. That is until the offense performed its latest disappearing act.
Kevin Ollie’s zone is effective, and it’s here to stay, even if teams start discovering its flaws. That’s mainly due to UConn being trimmed to eight legitimate scholarship players, a startling amount that was even one fewer on Saturday with Juwan Durham (flu) unable to take the flight to Columbus.
5. Ohio State made some really nice adjustments defensively to curtail Adams…
Jalen Adams set up his office at the rim in the first half, doing whatever he wanted off of high-ball screens. He often crossed over away from the screen, using his long strides and quickness to glide to the cup unbothered.
In the second half, Thad Matta adjusted to great effect. The Buckeyes’ bigs were more inclined to go under the screen and sit back, stuffing the driving lanes and inviting Adams to settle for jumpers—which he did.
With Adams unable to live in the paint, UConn’s spacing suffered, leading to less open shots, more congestion, and an increase in isolation situations with undesirable options.
The Huskies are more and more dependent on Adams every game, and that’s not a healthy recipe for improved offensive efficiency.
Next up for UConn is a home tilt with North Florida next Sunday, December 18th. In the meantime, let’s hope Durham’s illness passes, Christian Vital forgets the Ohio State game even took place, and Enoch watches some tape from this summer.