Buckeyes Blast Morehead State, Improve to 3-0

The 23rd ranked Ohio State basketball Buckeyes won their third straight to open the 2020-21 season, downing visiting Morehead State 77-44 in the Covelli Center.  The Buckeyes utilized the inside game in the first half and defense along with hot shooting spurred a 40-17 second half to coast to the win. Balance was the name of this game for Ohio State as the Buckeyes put 5 in double figures led by EJ Liddell’s 16 points and 7 rebounds. Duane Washington, Jr., Justice Sueing and C.J. Walker added 11 and Kyle Young chipped in 10 to go along with 9 boards.

The Buckeyes got on the board first, facing a zone defense, EJ Liddell found space at the left elbow and his jumper found the bottom of the net.  A pair of Eagle free throws tied the score two minutes into the game.  C.J. Walker put the Buckeyes back in front with a long jumper from the top of the key and after 2 free throws from Kyle Young, Ohio State led 6-2. A Morehead State floater got the Eagles within two and the score stood at 6-4 at the first media timeout. An Eagle triple out of the timeout gave Morehead State their first lead but the Buckeyes answered with a quick 6-0 run, fueled by 4 from Justice Sueing, along with two Eagle turnovers, put the Buckeyes up 12-7. A Morehead short fade away jumper brought the Eagles back within 3 at the under 12 media timeout. A Gene Brown jumper out of the timeout increased the lead to five and after a CJ Walker steal on the defensive end, Walker buried a three forcing Morehead State to call a 30 second timeout with just under 11 minutes remaining and the Buckeyes on top 17-9. A quick 5-0 Eagle run out of the timeout cut the Buckeye lead to 3 once again, but facing a 1-2-2 zone press, Duane Washington Jr. found Young at the block, breaking the press for a dunk to put the Buckeyes back up 5 at the under 8 media timeout. 4 straight points by E.J. Liddell put the Buckeyes up 7 and after an Eagle bucket, Sueing drilled a three, putting the Buckeyes up 10. A pair of Walker free throws gave Ohio State a lead of 12 and on an 11-2 run. After a score each way, the Eagles went on a 6-0 run thanks to a pair of threes and at the under 4 media break, Ohio State led Morehead State 30-24. Ohio State broke the run right away coming out of the timeout as Jimmy Sotos drilled a triple from the right point, his first points as a Buckeye.  4 more Liddell points gave the Buckeyes their largest lead of 13 and on a 7-0 run.  The Eagles ended the run with a late three from the top and at the half, Ohio State led the Morehead State Eagles, 37-27. Liddell led Ohio State in the first 20 minutes with 12 points, while Sueing and Walker each added 7.  The Buckeyes once again struggled from the floor, hitting on 12 of 30, including just 3 of 12 from long range. The Eagles didn’t shoot the ball well at all from inside the arc, making only 4 of their 13 attempts, but stayed relatively close by knocking down 5 of 9 from three.  The Buckeyes stemmed any Eagle charge in the first half by dominating the glass, outrebounding the Eagles 20-11 to hold the comfortable first half lead.

Morehead State kicked off the second half scoring, knocking down a pair of freebies to cut the lead to 8, but back came the Buckeyes. A transition layup by Walker followed by a Washington triple and a Liddell score at the block gave Ohio State a 7-0 run and a 15 point lead on the scoreboard, forcing the Eagles to call timeout with 16:57 left in the game. The Buckeyes twice held a lead of 15 before a Morehead triple cut the lead back to 12. Sueing increased the lead back to 14 with a short jumper after penetration and at the under 12 media timeout, the Buckeyes were on top 51-37 and firmly in control, dominating the glass, getting multiple opportunities on the offensive end and limiting Morehead’s opportunities on the defensive end. The Buckeyes increased the lead to 17 after a Kyle Young 3 from the top of the circle found the bottom and after a timeout, the Buckeyes entered the ball on the baseline and a quick hit jumper by Sueing put the Buckeyes up 19. Morehead State cut the lead back to 16 with a triple but a 9-2 Buckeye run put Ohio State up 65-42 with 4:26 left to play and Ohio State on cruise control. The run ballooned to 15-2 after back to back triples from Justin Ahrens and Duane Washington Jr. and Morehead State called timeout with Ohio State leading 71-42 and the benches emptying. Two more Ahrens triples exploded the lead to 77-42 before the Eagles knocked down a pair of free throws to complete the scoring.

Although the Buckeyes struggled a bit early from the outside, they found their stroke the second half and what was a solid lead, turned into a laugher as Ohio State showed what they can do when they are knocking down the outside shot.  The front line dominated the glass and controlled the pace for much of the first half, and the defense has been pretty consistent thus far in the young season, but when the shots are going, this team is dangerous.  They get out in transition and can hurt you in so many areas of the floor.  They play so unselfish and multiple guys can not only shoot it, they also have the ability to break down defenses off the bounce.  Coach Holtmann felt like his team played better on both ends than they had in the first two games.  The Buckeyes shot 44% from the field for the game and held the Eagles to just 25%.  But the offense really got going in transition as the Buckeyes forced 17 turnovers and only turning it over 7 times themselves and that is going to be the recipe for success as the season moves forward.  Ohio State, in the Holtmann era has emphasized defense and controlling the pace of play by being active and connected on the defensive end and on this night, they did just that and it led to a convincing win.

The Buckeyes will try to make it four in a row when they take the floor on Saturday night, hosting Alabama A&M at presumably the Schott.  Tip time for that game is scheduled for 7 PM on BTN.

– Jason Harris

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