Neutral court. National showcase.
Know these Chris Holtmann-led Ohio State Buckeyes yet? You should.
With a mix of heady basketball, sterling efforts and the Kyle Young Highlight Show, No. 15 Ohio State methodically moved past traditional-power UCLA, 80-66, inside the United Center.
Here are the Three Points from Lettermen Row that reflect the latest keys in the Buckeyesâ€™ dazzling start, now an elite-level 11-1.
These Buckeyes are so well coached
Mostly, if it could go wrong in the first half, it did for Ohio State. The Buckeyes couldnâ€™t shoot with any consistency. They didnâ€™t defend with much, either; the Bruinsâ€™ 10-for-20 start from the floor reflected as much.
Guess what? Holtmann & Co. made smooth tactical in-game adjustments, and the players reaped the benefits.
Yes, Ohio State led 33-30 at the half, and much of that was courtesy normal stalwart Kaleb Wesson and freshman sparkplug Luther Muhammad. But almost every single Buckeye onto the court in the opening 20 minutes made some tangible contribution, and they also settled in against UCLAâ€™s initially problematic zone defense.
The Buckeyes pulled away in this game because of their continued adjustments to UCLA, both offensively and defensively. OSU got vastly crisper passing and spacing on the offensive end, played more outside-inside-outside and then set up a pair of deftly executed lobs to Young that electrified the crowd.
While Steve Alford tried to stymie second-half Buckeyesâ€™ runs with timeouts, Holtmannâ€™s crew simply kept executing and distancing itself from the middling Bruins.
- Ohio State put the clamps on UCLA late in another win Saturday to continue the hot start. (David Banks/USA TODAY Sports)
Kaleb Wesson is K-Double-Double
Kaleb Wesson is more consistent than the shut-down government right now. The sophomore post used a dazzling blend of physical prowess and surprising big-man touch as he amassed another double-double.
While hitting a long-range triple, Wesson also helped the Buckeyes own the boards and the interior with 15 points and a dozen rebounds.
Though UCLA had some nice size and athleticism, it had no players who could match Wesson in terms of savvy and substance. Wesson hit several smooth jumpers and floaters, but he likewise banged through the too-weak Bruins who tried to match Wesson on the interior.
Buckeyes have plenty of weapons, plenty of poise
C.J. Jackson had the type of big-stage game heâ€™s wanted this season, fueling the Buckeyes with game-high scoring honors while also dishing off seven assists and snagging seven rebounds.
Enter Young, whose baseline play cannot be overstated â€“ especially as Kaleb Wesson battled some second-half foul problems. Young tallied 11 points and six boards.
Andre Wesson had nine points, including a much-needed triple at a key moment, while Duane Washington Jr. banged home two triples and finished with eight points.
Fifth-year graduate-transfer Keyshawn Woods showed himself perhaps the steadiest player on the floor. Woods closed with just six points and four rebounds, but he handed off a game-high 10 assists.
After scoring seven in the first half, Muhammad closed with nine points, three rebounds and two assists.