Buckeyes Dominate in Exhibition Opener

The Ohio State Men’s Basketball team played their first and only public exhibition, hosting DII Indianapolis and they weren’t kind hosts, drilling the Greyhounds 82-46. The Buckeyes put 5 in double figures, led by Gene Brown’s 15 off the bench. Zed Key and E.J. Liddell added 12 points and 9 rebounds each, while Meechie Johnson also scored 12. Malaki Branham chipped in 10 for the winners. The Buckeyes were playing without presumptive starters Kyle Young and Justice Sueing out with injury in addition to injured Seth Towns but they showed their potential and depth and a variety of options scoring the basketball and on the defensive end.  The Buckeyes held Indianapolis to just 32.1% shooting, while hitting 44.8% offensively, including 11 triples. The Greyhounds kept it relatively close early before a late run in the first half and an early second half burst allowed Ohio State to cruise to an easy victory. 

The Buckeyes opened the scoring as Justin Ahrens buried a triple from the right point.  After a Greyhound bucket, Meechie Johnson drilled a triple to put Ohio State up 6-2 early. Another Indianapolis bucket and after some sloppy play on both ends, E.J. Liddell found Johnson in transition for a lay-in and the Buckeyes led 8-4 at the first media break. A Greyhound runner following a Liddell missed three cut the lead to two but Jamari Wheeler scored on a nifty move in transition to put the Buckeyes back up four. An Indianapolis triple cut the lead to one. A Zed Key old fashioned three point play, scoring through contact and drilling the freebie put Ohio State back up four. After a pair of Greyhound turnovers, Malaki Branham scored in the middle of the lane to put Ohio State up six. After an Indianapolis miss, Ahrens found Branham in transition and his triple from the left wing dropped and after a shot clock violation turned the ball over back to the Buckeyes, the under 12 media timeout hit with Ohio State on top 18-9 with the latest run triggered by smothering Buckeye defense. After an Ohio State turnover, a Greyhound triple cut the lead to six. Ohio State answered when Liddell found Key on the right block for a bucket, but Indianapolis drilled another three to cut the lead to five. Gene Brown put Ohio State up seven with a short jumper from the right block and after a pair of Johnson freebies bumped the lead back to eight. Another score from Brown as he picked the pocket of the Indy guard and dunked at the other end uncontested sending the game into the under 8 media timeout with Ohio State on top 26-15 and 7:37 to go in the first half and Ohio State on a 7-0 run, After an Indianapolis bucket, things got sloppy on both ends with a pair of turnovers each way. Another Greyhound bucket in transition cut the lead to 7. The Buckeyes ended a near 3 minute drought without points when Key tipped in an Ahrens missed three. And when Johnson went coast to coast off a rebound, the Buckeyes increased their advantage to 11. The lead ballooned to 13 when Liddell put the ball on the deck and got to the rim, scoring through contact and at the final media timeout of the half, Ohio State was on top 32-19 and Liddell due to head to the stripe to complete the three point play. He bagged the free throw putting Ohio State up 14. Four straight Greyhound points cut the lead to 10 but Branham found Key in the middle of the lane for a dunk while he was fouled and Key drilled the freebie to up Ohio State’s advantage to 13. A pair of Indy free throws, followed by a pairfor Branham free throws kept the margin 13. The lead ballooned to 16 after Key rebounded an Ahrens missed and kicked to Brown on the left wing and Brown nailed a triple to cap the first half scoring as the teams hit the locker room with Ohio State leading Indianapolis 41-25. Zed Key led the Buckeyes with 10 first half points to go along with 7 rebounds.  Meechie Johnson added 9 and Gene Brown and Malaki Branham each added 7. Overall, Ohio State hit 46% of their first half shots, but just 4 of 15 from deep, however they did hit all 7 of their free throw attempts and forced 10 turnovers leading to the comfortable halftime lead. 

Indianapolis opened the second half scoring with a lay in at the rim. Ohio State came right back with Ahrens catching a pass from Wheeler in transition in the right corner and he drilled the three. Three free throws in four attempts from Johnson preceded a Wheeler three from the left point and a Liddell rebound put back put Ohio State up 25. The lead increased to 28 when Johnson found Branham on the right point for three and at the under 16 media timeout, Ohio State was on top 55-27 and on a 14-0 run. A Greyhound free throw ended the run but the Buckeyes still enjoying a comfortable lead. Liddell scored the next 7 of the game, drilling 15 footers from each wing and following with a triple to put Ohio State up 34. A Greyhound bucket ended the Liddell run. After a Buckeye turnover, Brunk picked up his fifth and disqualifying foul, ending his Buckeye debut without scoring. The two free throws dropped cutting the lead to 30 but back to back Brown three’s sent the teams to the benches as Indianapolis called timeout with Ohio State leading 68-32. A Greyhound bucket was followed by a short Key jump hook off high low action putting Ohio State back up 36. A Greyhound three trimmed the lead to 33 and at the under 8 timeout, the Buckeyes were still comfortably ahead, 70-37. Kalen Etzler, who is redshirting this season, scored at the rim, gathering a loose ball and laying it in and Jimmy Sotos found Harrison Hookfin with a lob and lay in forcing Indianapolis to call timeout with Ohio State on top 74-37. Three more from Hookfin, a bucket and a free throw, increased the Buckeye lead to 37. After Indianapolis scored, Cedric Russell drilled a triple from the right wing. Four straight Indianapolis points preceded a Brown bucket in the lane to finish the scoring.

Overall, a successful tuneup for the 2021-22 season.  The biggest question for Ohio State is how do they replace Duane Washington and C,J, Walker in the backcourt and they showed they have plenty of options.  Playing without Justice Sueing, Meechie Johnson, Malaki Branham, and Gene Brown showed scoring punch, and Jamari Wheeler showed his ability to run the show and wreak havoc at the top of the defense. While it wasn’t perfect and the opposition wasn’t much of a challenge, the Buckeyes did a pretty good job taking care of the basketball and played high intensity defensively forcing the Greyhounds into 18 turnovers. There will obviously be stiffer challenges ahead, it is clear to see the high ceiling from this group.  They will use this next week to get healthy and reflect on tonight’s exhibition before they get after it for real next Tuesday.

Ohio State hits the floor for the season opener next Tuesday evening, hosting Akron in the Schott for a 7 pm tip and airing on ESPN2

Jason Harris 

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