(Photo credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports)
Ohio State sophomore Roddy Gayle Jr. displayed glimpses of becoming a standout guard when coach Chris Holtmann inserted him into the starting lineup for the final third of last season.
Gayle took that trust to heart and is one of the players the Buckeyes (2-1) will rely on when they host Western Michigan (0-3) on Sunday in Columbus.
He is coming off tying his career high with 20 points in a 76-52 win against Merrimack on Wednesday and is averaging 15.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists while leading the team in minutes (33.3).
"Compared to last year, the game has slowed down tremendous," Gayle said. "Coming in as a freshman and playing against such elite level talent, those gaps close faster than you think.
"Thanks to (associate head coach Jake) Diebler and Coach Holt for putting me in those positions to fail. I've learned from my mistakes. Now is where my game's beginning to thrive."
Gayle made 8 of 12 field-goal attempts, grabbed five rebounds and had three assists against Merrimack.
"He's playing with great confidence," Holtmann said. "What's holding him back right now is consistent motor and effort every single day in practice."
Western Michigan of the Mid-American Conference is facing a Big Ten opponent for the second game in a row following a 63-59 loss to Northwestern on Tuesday.
Seth Hubbard led the Broncos with 17 points and Northern Illinois transfer Anthony Crump had nine rebounds.
"Crump is a guy that can play the 2-3-4 and then he could even play the five if we needed him to," Western Michigan second-year coach Dwayne Stephens said. "He gives you a ton of versatility, athletic ability and length, and should be one of the better defenders in our league."
The game is the first for both teams in the Emerald Coast Classic, which concludes next week in Niceville, Fla. The Buckeyes will play Alabama on Nov. 24 and either Oregon or Santa Clara the next day.
Western Michigan goes against Southeastern Louisiana on Nov. 24 and either Mercer or Tennessee State the following day.
--Field Level Media