There’s no denying the fact that Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell has been one of the nation’s best players. Entering Thursday’s game against a reeling Nebraska, Russell was averaging 19.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game, and he’s a finalist for multiple national Player of the Year awards.
Yet while Russell is skilled enough to entertain chatter of whether or not he can take over and lead the Buckeyes deep into the NCAA tournament, he isn’t the only freshman who’s stepped forward for the Buckeyes.
Jae’Sean Tate, a 6-foot-4 forward who was inserted into the starting lineup just over a month ago, has given Ohio State (20-8, 9-6) a needed boost in both front court toughness and production. That was once again the case in the Buckeyes’ 81-57 win over the Huskers, who have now lost six straight games. Tate scored a career-high 22 points, making his first seven field goal attempts (8-for-9 for the game), and also grabbing seven rebounds to lead the way.
Tate scored 14 of his points in the first half, scoring primarily from around the basket but also stepping out to knock down a three-pointer. And since moving into the starting lineup against Northwestern January 22, Tate’s averaging 13.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game with both numbers higher than his averages for the season entering Thursday (8.4, 4.9).
Russell (11 points, six assists), who had to leave the game with what Ohio State said was a cramp in his left hamstring, will be asked to do a lot for the Buckeyes offensively down the stretch. But with that comes even more attention from opposing defenses, meaning that others will need to step forward.
Against Nebraska three other Buckeyes, led by Tate, scored in double figures with Shannon Scott adding 13 points and Sam Thompson 15. And as the opponents get tougher, Ohio State will need for this to continue to be the case
Will Tate produce 20-point outings on a nightly basis? That’s probably unlikely. But the fact that Tate is capable of providing offense from the forward position gives Ohio State something they lacked in the front court prior to Thad Matta moving the freshman into his current starting role.