Buckeyes Move to 2-0, Survive UMass Lowell
The 23rd ranked Ohio State Basketball team struggled from the outside but survived a hot shooting UMass-Lowell team to come from behind in the second half to gain a hard fought 74-64 victory in the Covelli Center on Ohio State’s campus. Duane Washington, Jr. struggled for much of the game from the outside, but found the range late to lead the Buckeyes with 21, despite a 7 of 17 shooting day overall and just 3 of 13 from beyond the arc. Justice Sueing added 15 and C.J. Walker chipped in 13 and 5 assists, while E.J. Liddell scored 11 to go along with 8 rebounds for the victorious Buckeyes. The Buckeyes had a hard time against the smaller Riverhawk zone, struggling to hit just 4 of 18 from beyond the arc and just 40% from the floor overall, while Lowell knocked down 11 of 30 from deep. But it was the defense late that translated to offense to spur a late 7-0 run to put the game away and allowed the Buckeyes to escape with the win.
The Riverhawks started the scoring with a short jumper to grab the early lead but a 15-foot jumper from the left elbow by EJ Liddell got the Buckeyes even. Two free throws each by Duane Washington Jr. and Liddell gave the Buckeyes a 6-2 advantage just over 3 minutes in. A strip steal and transition layup from C.J. Walker clanged off the rim, but cleaning up the miss with a reverse lay in by Justice Sueing put the Buckeyes up 8-2. Lowell drilled a triple from the left wing to cut the lead to 8-5 at the first media timeout of the ballgame. Following a Lowell free throw, Washington found Zed Key on the block with a lob and finish and on the next possession, Justice Sueing found Key on the block for another lay in to put Ohio State up 12-6. The Buckeyes came back again with Key and this time it was Walker who found Key on the block with a no look pass and Ohio State led 14-6 with 12:13 remaining in the first half. A Riverhawk layup broke a 1 for 9 shooting streak and cut the lead to 14-8. The Buckeyes doubled up Lowell again as Liddell bullied his way to the block and scored to give Ohio State a 16-8 advantage. Lowell answered with a three and at the under 12 media timeout, the Buckeyes led 16-11. With the Buckeyes up 17-11, Justin Ahrens found Kyle Young in the paint for a hard slam up 8 and after a Riverhawk bucket, Young followed up an Ahrens miss from three to a deuce, but Lowell answered with a triple to cut the lead back to five and that’s where the score stood at the under 8 timeout. The Buckeyes doing their damage in the paint, outscoring the Riverhawks 14-4 inside, but Lowell keeping it close, drilling three triples thus far in the game. A pair of Young free throws out of the timeout was answered by another Lowell triple to cut the Buckeye lead to four and Lowell took a quick timeout. The Riverhawks cut the lead to just 2 after their 5th triple of the game found the bottom of the ropes, but a Walker free throw put the Buckeyes up 3 at the under 4 minute media timeout and in a dog fight as the Buckeyes were really struggling from long range against the Riverhawk zone. A pair of Riverhawk free throws cut the lead to just 1 but a rebound and touch feed from Zed Key to E.J. Liddell put Ohio State back up 3. The Riverhawks tied it with a three and just 1:38 to go in the half and a score each way ended the first half scoring with the score tied at 33 after 20 minutes. E.J. Liddell paced the Buckeyes with 8 points and 8 boards in the first 20 minutes and Duane Washington, Jr. also added 8 for the Buckeyes who were really struggling to shoot the basketball in the first half, hitting on just 34% of their attempts, including a dismal 0-8 from long range. The Riverhawks didn’t shoot much better from the floor, hitting on only 35.7%, but did connect on 6 of 15 from deep to keep them right in the game against the bigger Buckeyes. Ohio State dominated the paint, outrebounding Lowell 25-17 but failed to get anything going from the perimeter on either end as UMass Lowell only attempted 13 shots from inside the arc and the Buckeyes only scored a pair of points in transition, which contributed to the game being tied at the break.
The Buckeyes quickly jumped back out front when Washington got to the tin, penetrating from the right wing and scoring to put the Buckeyes up a pair. A Liddell free throw gave Ohio State a three point lead, but Lowell came right back and drilled another three to tie it. As Ohio State continued to struggle from the floor, missing 3 more from long range against the zone, Lowell was putting the pressure on and after a layup gave the Riverhawks their first lead since 2-0, a triple put them up five at the first media timeout of the first half and Ohio State scrambling to gain any momentum. A Walker short jumper off of penetration went down off the glass to cut the Riverhawk lead to 3 and after a bucket on the other end, Walker found Washington in the corner for a triple, the first of the game for Ohio State to trim the lead to 2. With Lowell back up 4, Justice Sueing got to the glass off an inbounds play under the bucket to cut the Riverhawk lead back to 2 and at the under 12 media timeout, UMass-Lowell led Ohio State 47-45. After a Lowell triple dropped, Jimmy Sotos found Sueing in the left corner for a three to answer cutting the lead back to two. Then, after a Lowell turnover, Sueing was fouled in transition while a technical foul was called on UMass Lowell for arguing the call. Walker bagged both technical foul shots to tie the score and Sueing made both of his free throws to put the Buckeyes back in front. With the Buckeyes up 4, Washington made a floater off the glass, increasing the lead to 4 and Ohio State on a 7-0 run. A Zed Key free throw upped Ohio State’s advantage to five but the Riverhawks ended the 8-0 run with a bucket and following a Buckeye miss, another Lowell three tied the score with 6:39 to play. Washington answered the Lowell triple with one of his own from the left wing, when his jumper hit every part of the tin and dropped through and Ohio State took a quick timeout, leading 59-56 with 6:22 on the game clock. A UMass-Lowell triple, their 11th of the game tied the score at 59, but a Liddell bucket at the rim, off the feed from Sueing put Ohio State back on top. Sueing scored on transition on the next Buckeye possession, but missed the and 1 opportunity and the Buckeyes led by 4. A Lowell bucket cut the lead to just a pair at the final media timeout, with Ohio State leading 63-61. With the Buckeyes clinging to a 2 point lead, Walker hit a short fader to put the Buckeyes up 4 with 2:25 to go, but a Lowell bucket cut it back to 2 and the Riverhawks called timeout with just over 2 minutes remaining. A pair of Sueing free throws increased the Buckeye lead to 4 and after a Lowell miss, Washington buried a dagger three to put Ohio State up 7 with a minute to play. A pair of Walker free throws capped a 7-0 run to put the Buckeyes in front to stay as Ohio State survived a challenge from the visiting Riverhawks.
Ohio State did what good teams have to do when you aren’t hitting shots and struggling to find any rhythm. They found a way to win and that comes with an experienced group who stayed within themselves which enabled them to pull away late to secure the victory. The poor shooting and lack of close outs on the perimeter on the defensive end has to be a little concerning moving forward, but they will learn from that and adjust. Overall, it was a good early season test that will give the coaching staff a little teaching fodder as they get back to practice and prepare for next week but at the end of the day, it’s always good to come out with a win and teaching after a win is always easier than coming off a loss.
Ohio State will look to move to 3-0 as they welcome Morehead State to the Schott on Wednesday evening. Tip time is scheduled for 5pm airing on BTN.
– Jason Harris