In Ohio’s first two games of the season, its starting lineup has consisted of only one player above the height of 6 feet, 4 inches. To the common fan, this may sound like a non-issue. However, for basketball, a sport dominated by height, Ohio’s lack of size has become a factor early this season.
Most opponents Ohio will face this season will feature several players of at least 6 feet, 5 inches. When Ohio is substantially smaller than its opponent, it creates mismatches that prove difficult to guard for Ohio’s smaller lineups. Not only guarding, but Ohio also has seen struggles to rebound over players that are substantially larger than them.
So far this season, Ohio has been out-rebounded 68-76.
In Ohio’s most recent loss to Cleveland State, the opposing two top scorers were listed at heights of 6 feet, 7 inches and 6 feet, 8 inches. Most notably, 6 foot, 8 inch forward Tristan Enaruna was particularly dominant with 22 points. Enaruna was often guarded by Ohio’s AJ Brown, who measures only 6 feet, 4 inches, making it easier for Enaruna to create space and score.
“I mean six foot eight, he can post up and shoot but – most importantly – he can drive,” head coach Jeff Boals said following the game at Cleveland State. “He got to the free throw 12 times and made nine of them, you know, he's a tough matchup … he carried them today.”
It is difficult to see how Ohio will guard a team with several dominant big men. AJ Clayton is the only current Ohio player to start a game above the height of 6 feet, 4 inches.
Redshirt Sophomore IJ Ezuma is a player that Ohio has been missing this season at 6 feet, 8 inches. Ezuma missed all of 2022 with an injury and has yet to play in a game this season.
Without much height on defense, Ohio has focused on beating teams with its speed and perimeter defense. Sophomore Elmore James, who stands at 6 feet, 3 inches, has commented that the team needs to have “heart over height.”
In its first game of the season, that is what the team did. Despite getting out-rebounded by eight, the team forced 17 turnovers, winning the turnover battle with Troy by 10.
However, Ohio cannot expect to force 17 turnovers each game.
Size is not something you teach, but that does not mean that Ohio stands no chance. Off the bench, center Gabe Wiznitzer has shown flashes of using his 6-foot, 11-inch size to the team's advantage.
Ohio entered this season without Dwight Wilson, last season’s top scorer. At 6 feet, 8 inches, Wilson was a force in the paint for Ohio. Not only did Wilson lead the team in points, but he was also the leader in rebounds. Without a guy like Wilson under the basket, Ohio will need to learn to play a new brand of basketball.
“We knew from day one that this was gonna be an issue, an Achilles' heel, and we gotta keep working on it because, you know, it’s going to beat you,” Boals said regarding the team’s struggles to rebound.