With fewer than five seconds remaining in the first half and Ohio State holding a 26-20 lead, Buckeyes point guard Aaron Craft tried to grab control of an errant pass under his own team's defensive basket, attempting to keep the ball inbounds as he broke one of basketball's cardinal sins. Proving why you should never save the ball under your opponent's offensive goal, Craft threw the ball right into the hands of Eagles' freshman guard Charlie Jones, who found a cutting Darius Gardner for an And-1 layup to cut OSU's lead to three.
Craft somewhat made up for the play with a layup as time expired on the ensuing play to push the Buckeyes' advantage back to five, but his head coach said that it wasn't on him, but rather his teammates, when it came to what happened on the play before.
"When you go back and look at it, you're going to see what I saw," Matta said. "(Craft) has the ball and he's falling out of bounds -- you come back to the basketball. And we were just like, ‘Ehhh, that might take too much effort to run three feet over there.' That's kind of how we played."
While the Buckeyes' effort against the Eagles may be debatable, their shooting performance was somewhat consistent -- and not in a good way.
Four days after a 26.9 percent first half performance from the field in its win over Marquette, Ohio State endured an even uglier opening stanza against American, connecting on just seven of its 27 shot attempts before halftime. The Buckeyes made just two of their first 16 shot attempts on the night, which Matta said was simply a result of his team's inability to take advantage of open -- and easy -- looks.
"We had 13 shots we missed at halftime that were right in the paint," Matta pointed out. "It was a little deja vu of up there Saturday in terms of putting the ball in the bucket."
Fortunately for Ohio State, junior center Amir Williams picked a good night to have a career game. The 6-11, 250-pound post player recorded a career best 16 points against the Eagles -- eight of which came in the first half -- on 6-of-9 shooting.
Williams has looked impressive through the Buckeyes' first four games this season, averaging 9.5 points per contest while displaying hook shots with both hands that weren't in his arsenal a year ago.
"I've just been working my tail off in the offseason and during practice as well, just trying to have some go-to moves in the post," Williams said. "I'm starting to feel a lot more confident making moves in the post, and I just hope I can keep the confidence up and continue to make those moves, continue to get those baskets down low for my team."
Joining Williams in double-digit scoring against the Eagles was classmate Shannon Scott, who added 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting. No other OSU player made more than two field goals, including junior forward LaQuinton Ross, whose struggles continued as he missed six of the seven shots he attempted, before sitting out the final 14 minutes of the game.
After Ross was held scoreless in Milwaukee a game prior, Matta admitted that he was concerned with the play of the 6-8 forward, who was named to the Wooden Award preseason watch list.
"I'm a little puzzled," Matta said. "Q's a great basketball player, we need him to play well."
In the second half, Ohio State managed to connect on 44.8 percent of its shots, a much-welcomed improvement from the Buckeyes' first half effort. Nevertheless, Ohio State's second sloppy start in as many games is looking more like a trend than an aberration for the Buckeyes, who are still in the process of replacing their leading scorer from a season ago in Deshaun Thomas.
"Shooting can become contagious," Matta said. "This is one of those games, where you have these, and fortunately for us, we were able to come out with a win tonight. But the biggest thing is we've got to learn from it and we've got to continue to find ways to improve daily."