Bucks Battle Bison For 73-71 Win

The Buckeyes overcame a 24-4 run by Bucknell midway through the game, and held on at the end for a hard fought 73-71 win.  A career high 22 points for Kaleb Wesson, including 9-10 from the charity stripe led the way as Ohio State is now 9-1 (2-0) on the season. Wesson also pulled down 10 rebounds to complete his first double-double of the year, second in his career.

At the end of the season the NCAA committee will likely look back on this game as a nice signature win for the Buckeyes, as Bucknell looks to be a team that will not only challenge in the Patriot League but may also be dancing in March as well. Keep in mind they lost a 3/14 matchup last year in the tournament against Michigan State 82-78. Led by senior Nate Sestina who came in averaging 17 points a game along with 9 rebounds, hoped to be the difference today. But foul trouble shorten his game this afternoon and without him on the floor, there really wasn’t anyone that could match up with Wesson. The Bison did come in with a modest 4-3 record but were 3-0 on the road.

From the opening tip, it appeared the 10 day layoff was not going to have a negative affect on the Buckeyes. At the first break, OSU had an 11-5 lead, and holding Bucknell to 1-7 shooting out the gate. It was clear Ohio State was working to get the ball to Kaleb Wesson. The lead was extended to 19-13 at the 10:56 mark but that is where some focus may have been lost.

The Buckeyes started to have some breakdowns defensively and on the offensive side of the floor they struggled with their ball rotation. Give Bucknell some credit for that as they come in the the Schott with the plan of getting their first win over a ranked opponent since 2005. The game remained close for the next few minutes but Duane Washington provided a spark off the bench with two quick 3-pointers. Seven Buckeyes were in the scoring column and with 3:23 to go in the half the home team was ahead 37-28. It looked for a moment as if this could become a blowout.

But a 10 point scoring run for Bucknell cut the OSU lead to 2 points. CJ Jackson, who was starting is 50th straight game drove the lane and drew a foul.  But after missing both free throws, and a long basket on the other end, the Bison tied up the game 37-37 with 1:06 to play in the first half. With a 15-2 run to end the half, and shooting 9/17 from beyond the arc, the Bison where up 40-39 at the break.

Ohio State could not convert their opening shot of the second half and Bucknell hit an open three to make it 43-39. All of the sudden this was feeling a bit like the Syracuse game when the Buckeyes went down to a hot shooting.  Then to make matters worse, Andre Wesson was taken to the locker room with 17:32 to go in the game. Finding  himself underneath a falling Nate Sestina, Wesson’s mouth made direct contact with the floor and cracked three of his teeth. It even looked like the ref picked up a piece of a tooth off the floor.

But the Bucks were not ready to yield the game just yet.  Clawing there way back, mostly with a defense showing some real intensity, Ohio State was not going to go gentle into that good night. Jackson hit a big 3 at the 15:39 mark, cutting it to a 49-46 game.

Shortly after the media time out, Jackson had yet another drive in the lane, this time getting the basket and giving the lead back to Ohio State 53-52.  This was part of a 15-3 run for Ohio State going 6-6 from the field. At the same time, the Bison were at the beginning stages of a scoring drought, where they would ultimately go over seven minutes with out a field goal. Keyshawn Woods took his turn contributing to the comeback with a couple of three’s and forcing Bucknell to call a time out. A 10-0 run by the Buckeyes and they were up 58-52 and it was again starting to look like the game was going to get out of hand.

Once again though, Bucknell was fighting hard. Playing without their senior Sestina, who fouled out of the game, they increased their own intensity on defense holding the Buckeyes to no more than one shot, and a couple turnovers. OSU began to really move the ball around on offense and still were up 62-56 with 8:00 minutes to go.

Freshman Luther Muhammand hit a momentum basket to give the Buckeyes a 68-58 lead and forced Bucknell to call yet another time out. The Bisons were 1-14 during this stretch from the field so the score could have been even worse for them. In addition, they were only 1-10 from three-point territory at this stage of the second half, a big drop from the first 20 minutes. Yet somehow, they did not give up and started a final comeback still.

It appeared that Ohio State got out of their previous offensive set and begin to slow the game down by taking time off the clock on offense.  But it just created bad shots for them and as the game worked under two minutes remaining, once again it was a four point game. The Buckeyes were not converting the free throws late an 3 by Bucknell’s Kimbal Mackenzie made it a 3 point game.  Kaleb Wesson was fouled and made both free throws but another Bison 3 pointer and the lead was cut to two, 73-31 with 0:20 to go.

Ohio State was not able to get the ball in bounds cleanly and in the scramble Bucknell had just enough possession to call their final timeout.  Now they had the ball, and 14 seconds to either go for the tie or the win.  Fortunately the Buckeyes went all out on defense, forcing two off balance 3-point attempts, preserving the two point win.

Ohio State won the only previous match-up with the Bison, defeating Bucknell 90-62 back in 1986. For that game, Kaleb and Andre’s father Keith Wesson started at center for OSU.

Ohio State will next hit the hardwood Tuesday, 12/18 against Youngstown State.  Tip-off is at 7:00 for this home game, broadcast on BTN.

– Gregg Watson

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