Buckeyes Bounce the Bearcats in Cincinnati
The Ohio State men’s basketball team came into the season looking to replace a large portion of their scoring from a year ago and had many questions. Some of those questions were answered, at least for a night, in a 64-56 road victory over Cincinnati in the season opener for both teams. There was a lot of hype surrounding this basketball game, a rivalry that hasn’t been played in the regular season on a campus site since the 1920’s and it lived up to the hype. In the opening of the newly renovated Fifth Third Arena, the Buckeyes made sure it was the visitors that left the floor celebrating, building a second half lead as big as 16 and holding on to secure a win that will be a confidence builder and good for the tournament resume come March.
The start of the game was all about each team feeling each other and themselves out as defense ruled early. In the first 3 minutes of the game, the only bucket was a Cincinnati triple that had them out to the early 3-0 advantage. Finally, the Buckeyes were able to get on the scoreboard at the 16:15 mark thanks to a Kaleb Wesson tip in. As Ohio State struggled to score, so did the Bearcats and finally the Buckeyes were able to get a mini run, due to a pair of triples, one from Duane Washington, Jr. and one from Luther Muhammad. After a post feed from Keyshawn Woods to Kyle Young resulted in a bucket, the Buckeyes enjoyed an 18-10 lead at the 7-minute mark of the half. The Buckeyes would go scoreless the next 3 minutes as UC cut the lead to just 3 at the under 4 minute timeout. Ohio State went on a 6-0 run out of the timeout, all from the free throw line. Kyle Young buried 4 and C.J. Jackson made a pair. Following a 3 ball from the top of the key at the 1:21 mark from Jackson, the Buckeyes led 27-17. The Bearcats would split a pair of free throws to complete the scoring as the teams went to the locker room with Ohio State enjoying a 27-18 lead. Ohio State shot just 33% from the field in the half but that was red hot compared to the Bearcats hitting just 4 of 29, good for 13.8%. Kyle Young led Ohio State with 6 first half points and C.J. Jackson added 5. Kaleb Wesson, who went to the bench at the 4-minute mark with 2 fouls added 4 points and 6 rebounds in the first 20 minutes.
The Bearcats struck first in the second half, but Ohio State would answer. A pair of jumpers from Muhammad, a pretty baseline spin move from Kaleb Wesson and a free throw from Muhammad led Ohio State to a 34-22 lead at the first media timeout of the half with Kyle Young due to go to the stripe out of the break. Young would split the free throws and the Buckeyes led by 13. After a Bearcat miss, Andre Wesson drilled a three from the right wing and Ohio State had its biggest lead at 16, forcing UC coach Mick Cronin to call a timeout. Cincinnati would not go away and Ohio State got into a little foul trouble as both Wesson brothers picked up their 3rd each and a 5-0 UC run forced coach Chris Holtmann to call a timeout with 12:34 remaining. The Cats would extend their run to 7-0 and following an offensive foul on a questionable moving screen on Andre Wesson, his 4th, the teams went into the under 12 media timeout with Ohio State’s once large lead now a bit more precarious at just 9 and UC with the basketball. Ohio State would answer the Bearcat run and following a Kyle Young old fashioned 3-point play on a put back and free throw, the Buckeyes led by 14. The Buckeyes would build the lead back to 16 after a Muhammad triple from the right wing but the Bearcats kept battling. After Muhammad was called for an inexplicable technical for taunting after the three, UC went on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 10 at the final media timeout. Kaleb Wesson drilled a three from the top with just under 3 to play to give the Buckeyes a 11 point lead but the Bearcats would not quit. A furious scramble would ensue as Ohio State failed to convert on free throw opportunities, splitting a pair on two separate occasions and UC would take advantage. Cincinnati would cut the lead to just 4 with 59.5 seconds but a dribble drive off the window from C.J. Jackson with 29 seconds remaining would all but seal it. Jackson would bury a pair of free throws to finish off the scoring and an 8 point Buckeye win. Kaleb Wesson led 4 Buckeyes in double figures with 15 points and 7 rebounds, while C.J. Jackson added 13, Luther Muhammad 11 and Kyle Young added 10 and 8 boards.
This one will loom large when the tournament committee considers resumes at the end of the season. The Buckeyes went into a hostile environment and beat a team and a program that has years of sustained success. While this might not be the best Bearcat team they have had in the last several years, it is still a talented team and offered a significant challenge for the young Bucks. They look to have an athletic and explosive backcourt and with a stronger and more nimble Kaleb Wesson, the Buckeyes have a chance to be a pretty good basketball team. It’s very early, but I definitely like what I see.
The Buckeyes resume action on Sunday afternoon at 4pm, hosting Purdue-Ft. Wayne in the Schott.
– Jason Harris
Photo credit to Eleven Warriors