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Sports Today: Ohio State shows growth in gutty home win

Dayton basketball is back in action tonight, so Ohio State was the center of attention Monday. 

A Buckeye basketball double feature included a big hit and a big dud. 

The men’s team improved to 9-0 in the Big Ten with a gutty 64-59 win over Nebraska

GAME STORY: Buckeyes survive trap game against Cornhuskers

It was the kind of game where having veterans really paid off, especially since one of them was Keita Bates-Diop. 

The senior forward scored 20 points, including several key baskets in the second half, while fellow senior Jae’Sean Tate had 17 and junior C.J. Jackson added 12. 

RELATED: 7 things to know about Ohio State’s new coach

This was the type of game Ohio State would have lost last season — or in November — but these Buckeyes have shown some mental toughness and taken care of the ball far better than they did while losing three of four games late in the first game of the season. 

Only 10,918 fans were said to be there to see it, which caused some concerned tweets and came up in coach Chris Holtmann’s post-game press conference. 

He handled the question well, but here’s the thing: There probably just aren’t that many hard-core Ohio State basketball fans. 

It’s a soft market. That’s the way it has been for a long time, perhaps forever. 

And in a vacuum 10,000 fans probably is at least a solid number of people for a random Monday night in January, especially when the season is so long now.

(For perspective, 33 teams drew more than 11,000 per game last season, and there are multiple power programs — most notably Duke — that play in arenas don’t even hold 11,000 fans.) 

That figure is lower than what Ohio State was announcing a few years ago, but I bet it is closer to accurate because I know in the past the numbers were inflated by season-ticket holders who weren’t actually there. 

(Full disclosure: I was not at the game last night to see for myself how many seats were filled, but I can pretty much guarantee they never announce an attendance figure smaller than the actual number of butts in the seats.) 

  

I’m assuming the team’s recent struggles eroded that base, which is quite understandable given the frequent listlessness Thad Matta’s last few teams played with and the lack of expectations for this squad. 

In terms of people actually going to games, Ohio State has had a problem for a long time. Now they can’t announce as many tickets sold as they could during Matta’s best runs, but even then the official average attendance was well short of Value City Arena capacity. 

Add that to the list of reasons replacing the historic St. John Arena (capacity of more than 13,000) with a 19,500-seat multi-use venue was a massive mistake. It might have seemed like a good idea at time, but in reality VCA is too big, leaving it with bad acoustics and terrible sight-lines for both sporting events and concerts. The seats are surprisingly uncomfortable for being less than 50 years old, too. 

RELATED: Holtmann brings upsideOhio State coaches have varied backgrounds, origins

Unfortunately, VCA is just not a great place to watch much of anything — and as a former usher there, I’ve seen a lot of things from a lot of angles and levels. 

I would imagine there being no consistent pattern to what night of the week or what time games start doesn’t help, either, but that’s not Oho State’s fault. 

As Holtmann said, it did sound like a pretty energetic bunch when things were tight late. So there’s that.

Perhaps there was a higher than usual percentage of people who actually wanted to be there rather than just bought a ticket (or used a friend’s) because it was a thing to do…

Earlier in the evening, the Ohio State women’s team traveled to Maryland and turned in one of the worst performances of the Kevin McGuff era. 

The Terrapins took advantage of porous Ohio State defense pretty much immediately and never looked back en route to a Big Ten-race defining 99-69 win over the Buckeyes, who have lost two in a row. 

Ohio State was bad in the first half and worse in the second while falling out of first place in the conference. 

The Buckeyes must right the ship quickly if they want to have any shot at defending their Big Ten regular season crown. They have to go to Iowa on Thursday night and play at Michigan State at noon Saturday. 

On the bright side, Kelsey Mitchell scored 15 points and passed Maya Moore and Elena Della Donne while moving to eighth on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list… 

The football team also made some news with the announcement Ryan Day has been promoted to offensive coordinator. 

This is mostly semantics as he was quarterbacks coach and “co-offensive coordinator” last year, his first in Columbus. 

That comes after Adam Schefter reported Day had turned down an opportunity to be the offensive coordinator for Mike Vrabel, who was just hired as head coach of the Tennessee Titans. 

Day had a positive impact on J.T. Barrett and the passing game in general, though both still left a little to be desired, and it looks like likely 2018 starter Dwayne Haskins Jr. approves of his decision to stay... 

Also in college football news this week: The Miami RedHawks. 

Coach Chuck Martin is adding another quarterback to the fold with the announcement Alex Malzone is transferring to Oxford from Michigan

He was a four-star recruit three years ago but never threw a pass in a game for the Wolverines, who brought in Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson this offseason and have part-time starter Brandon Peters and redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey back from last season. 

As a graduate transfer, Malzone will be eligible immediately at Miami, where two-year starter Gus Ragland has a year of eligiblity remaining... 

As mentioned, the Flyers are back in action tonight when Davidson comes to town. 

The Wildcats, including former Dayton and Ohio State assistant Kevin Kuwik, are a game below .500. 

Will Anthony Grant’s team end its two-game losing streak? 

KenPom.com doesn’t think so, but this squad has been nothing if not unpredictable. 

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