Duane Washington Jr. was far from perfect on Sunday afternoon, but he delivered when the Buckeyes needed him most.
That’s a strange thing to say about someone who dropped a career-high 21 points against UMASS-Lowell and led his team to a less-than-comfortable win. Washington only connected on 7-of-17 from the floor, but he was reliable when it really counted. In a year where everyone has been trying to make the most of imperfect situations, Washington’s performance was what Ohio State needed.
“He was probably pressing,” said head coach Chris Holtmann after the game. “He was so open on a couple of those shots, he was probably pressing a little bit and he’s gotta just relax and knock those down. I’m gonna roll with that, he got great looks. The bulk of his missed shots were really good looks.”
Washington hit two huge 3-pointers in the second half of the game. The first one came in direct response to a River Hawks 3-ball on the other end that had tied the game at 56-56.
Then with OSU looking for a dagger to squash UML’s hopes of pulling off the upset, Washington buried a contested 3-pointer to make it a 3-possession lead with just over one minute to play.
Perhaps more impressive to me than his 21 points and big shots in key moments was the job he did defensively against River Hawks’ top threat Obadiah Noel.
“Coming into this game, I knew that he was their best player and he was going to be my matchup the whole game,” said Washington. “I wanted to show how hard I worked on my defense this off-season. It’s something I worked really, really hard on.”
“I thought defensively he competed and I thought he was really engaged in the game,” said Coach Holtmann afterwards. “We’ve talked about his defensive inefficiencies before and we need to help him keep making strides there, but I really did think he was engaged with the game at a pretty high level.”
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