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Mar 18, 2024 3:52 pm

Stabilized with coach in place, Ohio State hits NIT to face Cornell

Diebler

With a permanent coach in place, No. 2 seed Ohio State hosts Cornell in a first-round game of the NIT on Tuesday in Columbus.

Stability is welcomed for the Buckeyes (20-13) following a topsy-turvy season in which longtime coach Chris Holtmann was fired on Feb. 14 after a 2-9 stretch plummeted Ohio State to near the bottom of the Big Ten.

Associate head coach Jake Diebler was promoted to interim head coach and guided the Buckeyes to a 6-2 record, good enough to have the interim title removed Sunday after he signed a five-year contract to become the 15th head coach in school history.

“We have great expectations for this,” Diebler said Monday during his introductory press conference. “We are going to commit and make decisions through the lens of what helps Ohio State basketball win a championship and cut down those nets.”

The Buckeyes’ attention now turns to stopping Cornell (22-7) and its high-octane offense. The Big Red, in its first NIT, are 17th nationally in points per game (82.1), 10th in 3-pointers made (10.3) and rank 19th in field goal percentage (48.7).

“We will press. We will run and see where everything falls,” Cornell coach Brian Earl said. “We do have guys that can get to the basket and there’s a little more space for them because we do have shooters and a lot of times in this game it’s pick your poison.

“With us cutting to the basket and getting to the basket we get a lot of high percentage shots. It’s been successful for us so far.”

For the Buckeyes, the NIT is a chance to continue their late form that had them dreaming of an NCAA Tournament bid, only to fall short after losing to Illinois in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tourney on Friday.

“I think it would be amazing for me to experience the postseason,” Ohio State guard Roddy Gayle said. “I haven’t really had the opportunity to do so. Also, I feel like the way we’re playing right now, I don’t feel like any team in the country can stop us.”

Ohio State or Cornell will play the winner between No. 3 seed Virginia Tech and Richmond either Saturday or Sunday.

–Field Level Media

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