Buckeyes Overcome Slow Start, Rout Penguins

In a tale of two halves, the 15th ranked Ohio State basketball Buckeyes took over in the second half, coming from behind to defeat Youngstown State 75-56.  The Buckeyes overcame their worst half of basketball of the season and rode the back of sophomore center Kaleb Wesson, whose career high 31 points led Ohio State to their 10th win, improving to 10-1 on the year.

It was a slow start for Ohio State, who missed their first 7 shots and went nearly 5 minutes before their first field goal, falling behind the Penguins 9-0.  The Buckeyes lacked any energy on the offensive end to start the game, prompting Coach Chris Holtmann to quickly get freshman JaeDon LeDee off the bench to replace Kaleb Wesson just 2 minutes in and employ a mass substitution at the under 16 timeout.  The Buckeyes continued to struggle from deep, going 0 for 6 from three as the Penguins opened up an inexplicable 14-2 lead over the heavily favored Buckeyes.  Ohio State went on a 6-0 mini run to trim the lead to 6 but the Penguins went into the under 12 timeout leading 16-8.  The Buckeyes kept the Penguins at arm’s length with increased effort defensively despite their worst offensive performance of the season.  The shooting woes continued throughout the entire half as the Buckeyes missed their first 10 three point tries before C.J. Jackson buried a three from the right point in the waning seconds of the half, trimming the deficit to 3 with the Penguins leading 25-22 at the end of the first 20 minutes.  The first half stats were not pretty for the home team as the Buckeyes shot just 24% from the field, including 1-11 from long range.  The smaller Penguins also outrebounded the Buckeyes 25-21 and held the lead despite not shooting it particularly well themselves, at just 33% and 3-11 from three.

The Buckeyes came out to start the second half with much better effort on both ends and when Kaleb Wesson scored on an offensive rebound and put back, the Buckeyes had their first lead of the game at the 17:02 mark of the second half.  The Buckeyes made a concerted effort to get the ball inside to Kaleb Wesson in the early portion of the second half and it paid dividends as Ohio State scored 21 of the first 28 points of the half to open an 11-point advantage.  The Penguins struggled to defend Wesson in the post and when he wasn’t scoring he was being fouled or kicking it out for open looks on the perimeter, including triples from Keyshawn Woods and C.J. Jackson.  The Buckeyes finally began to find a rhythm on the offensive end but it all started by getting the ball into the post which created easy opportunities at the rim as well as open looks on the wing and Ohio State was able to convert.  The Buckeye lead continued to expand as the half progressed and began to run away with it, building the lead to 16 with just over 9 minutes to play.  In addition to Wesson’s impact on the offensive end, Luther Muhammad contributed with a quick 8 over a 3 minute stretch, nailing a pair of triples and a running one hander on the right baseline as Ohio State maintained their double digit advantage.  The Penguins began to find their stroke offensively a bit late in the game, but Ohio State continued to go to their big man and Kaleb Wesson dominated keeping the Penguins from making a serious charge.  In addition to Wesson’s career high 31, he added 7 rebounds and 3 assists to lead the way.  C.J. Jackson added 11 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists to go along with 0 turnovers, and Luther Muhammad chipped in 11 of his own.

After as poor of a first half of basketball you will see, the Buckeyes did a 180 in the second half, playing with much greater energy and enthusiasm.  The connectivity on offense showed in the statistics as the Buckeyes shot 70% from the floor in the second 20 minutes most of which came in the paint.  The dominance in the paint led to some open looks from the outside as well as Ohio State hit 4 of 8 three point tries in the second half.  The Buckeyes also were once again very unselfish as they have been for much of the season, assisting on 17 of their 26 made buckets.  Ohio State also flipped the script on the glass, winning that battle for the game by a final tally of 39-30.

Sometimes you have games where for one reason or another, the team just does not play with a sense of urgency or focus which was witnessed throughout much of the first half.  Fortunately, they played a much lesser talented opponent and did not fall too far behind so they could flip the switch in the second half and essentially blow the Penguins out.   They won’t get away with an effort like that much longer as the schedule gets tougher going forward, but it’s a teaching moment for Chris Holtmann and his staff and the Buckeyes will certainly learn from it going forward.

The Buckeyes next take the floor at the United Center in Chicago on Saturday afternoon in the CBS Sports Classic against UCLA.  Tip time is scheduled for 3:30 PM to be televised on CBS.

– Jason Harris

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