Buckeyes Hold Off Visiting Cleveland State To Improve to 5-0

22nd ranked Ohio State played in the Schott for the first time in two and a half weeks and overcame a gritty effort by the visiting Vikings to come away with a 67-61 victory to move to 5-0. Playing without leading scorer E.J. Liddell, Ohio State struggled for nearly the entire 40 minutes to find any kind of rhythm on offense, yet were able to hold off the scrappy Vikings to get the win. Duane Washington, Jr. led Ohio State with 17 points, despite just 5 of 14 shooting.  C.J. Walker didn’t shoot much better, but added 16 and Zed Key came off the bench to post a double-double, scoring 12 and pulling down 10 rebounds marking his best game in his young career. Overall, Ohio State really struggled shooting the ball, hitting on just 40.4% of their attempts, including a dismal 6 of 21 from long range and despite also being outrebounded, the Buckeyes found a way to get the win to stay unbeaten on the young season.

The Buckeyes held the Vikings scoreless for the first 5 minutes of the game, however they were only able to muster a pair of Duane Washington Jr. triples to lead 6-2.  Justice Sueing buried a 15 footer from the right wing to put Ohio State up 8-2 but Cleveland State outscored Ohio State 7-4 over the next 2 minutes to trail Ohio State just 12-9 at the under 12 timeout. A Viking bucket cut the lead to just one, but Washington hit a runner to put Ohio State back up four.  After a pair of Viking free throws, C.J. Walker scored at the rim off penetration and Musa Jallow used the glass off the dribble to force Cleveland State to call timeout, trailing the Buckeyes 18-12. After a Viking hoop, Walker found Zed Key with a lob at the rim for a score putting Ohio State back up 6. The Vikings outscored Ohio State 4-2 over the next few minutes to send the teams to their respective benches for the final media timeout with Ohio State leading Cleveland State 22-18 and the Buckeyes searching for offensive rhythm. With the score 28-24, Walker found a lane and got to the rim for the score while being fouled.  He knocked down the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play and the Buckeyes were up 7.  That’s how it would stay as neither team could muster any offense the rest of the way and at the half, Ohio State led Cleveland State 31-24. The Buckeyes led despite a sloppy half on the offensive end while the Vikings were playing confident basketball.  Neither team shot the ball well at all as the Vikings hit just 10 of 29, good for 34.5%, while Ohio State hit just 10 of their 26 attempts for a 38.5% clip.  Cleveland State hit just 1 of 5 from beyond the arc and Ohio State just 2 of 11 from long range. The Buckeyes did knock down 9 of their 10 freebies to keep the Vikings at an arm’s length despite being out of sync in the halfcourt. C.J. Walker led all scorers with 9, while Duane Washington Jr. added 8 and Zed Key 6.

The Buckeyes grew their lead to 11 early in the second half after a Sueing baseline jumper and a Washington spinner at the rim.  Back came Cleveland State, outscoring the Buckeyes 8-2 over the next 3 minutes, cutting the lead to just 5 at the under 16 media timeout. Out of the timeout, Sueing split a pair of free throws and the Vikings drilled a triple to cut the lead to just three. Following a Buckeye miss, a rebound and put back brought the Vikings within one.  An Ohio State turnover gave the Vikings a chance to take a lead but an errant shot at the rim gave the Buckeyes a mini transition opportunity and Ahrens got the ball on the left wing, took a dribble to his right to avoid the defender and buried a three to put the Buckeyes back up four. The Vikings cut the lead to two and at the under 12 media timeout, Ohio State clung to a 41-39 lead. Back to back triples by Walker and Jimmy Sotos forced Cleveland State to call timeout with 8:49 to go in the game and Ohio State leading 47-39. The Vikings answered with a triple to cut the lead back to 5, but a pair of Sueing free throws and Sueing found Key on the next possession for a bucket to put the Buckeyes up 9.  The Vikings would not go away.  A triple on their next possession cut the lead to 5, but Ahrens answered with a three of his own to put the Buckeyes back up 8. The teams traded buckets over the next couple minutes and at the final media timeout of the game, Ohio State was on top 60-52. A  Viking free throw and a Buckeye turnover leading to an easy transition lay-up cut the lead to five, but that was the close they would get. On the next Buckeye possession, Zed Key got the ball at the block, turned, and scored to put the Buckeyes back up 7 and it would become a free throw contest the rest of the way as the Buckeyes put the game away despite a late Viking triple to finish the scoring.

The temporary loss of E.J. Liddell was most evident on the offensive end, where the Buckeyes lacked any fluidity or rhythm and looked seemingly out of sync all game long.  Cleveland State was the more aggressive and physical basketball team and although they came up short against the Buckeyes, they were the aggressor for the majority of the game, even outrebounding the Buckeyes by 2. The good news for Ohio State is they got the win and learned about themselves to find a lineup that can work without the services of Liddell.  They will need him back soon as the Big Ten season is about to heat up and the Buckeyes will absolutely have to be better to win within conference play.

Ohio State returns to the hardwood on Wednesday evening, hitting the road to face Purdue at 7pm and airing on BTN.

-Jason Harris

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