Buckeyes Dominate Falcons to Move to 3-0

The 19th ranked Ohio State basketball Buckeyes raced out to a double digit lead in the opening minutes and never looked back, controlling the game on both ends en route to a 89-58 victory in the campus portion of the Ft. Myers Tip Off at the Schott. Ohio State put 5 in double figures led by E.J. Liddell and Meechie Johnson, Jr who had 13 each, a career high for Johnson. Zed Key added 12 points and 9 rebounds and Gene Brown also added a career high 12. Justin Ahrens chipped in 11 for the victors who shot 51.4% from the field, while holding the Falcons to just 39% and forcing 18 turnovers.

The Buckeyes came out roaring at the jump, getting out to an 11-0 lead thanks to an 0-5 shooting start for the Falcons.  A pair of Jamari Wheeler triples and one from Malaki Branham in addition to a pair of Justin Ahrens free throws enabled the Buckeyes to gain control early.  Bowling Green scored the next four thanks to three Buckeye turnovers and at the first media break, Ohio State led 11-4. The Buckeyes, after struggling to find a rhythm for a few minutes, got back on the board when Zed Key tipped in a Wheeler short jumper. The lead increased to 9 when Meechie Johnson found Gene Brown streaking through the lane in transition for a dunk and at the under 12 media timeout, Ohio State led Bowling Green 15-4. A short jump hook just above the left block by Kyle Young fell, increasing the Buckeye lead to 13.  The Buckeyes kept coming and after a quick ball reversal on the perimeter, Ahrens drilled a long three from the left wing to put Ohio State up 16.  The lead went to 18 when Young found E.J. Liddell mid paint and his short jumper fell, forcing Bowling Green to call timeout with 8:24 left in the first half and Ohio State ahead 22-4 and on an 11-0 run as tight Buckeye defense forced 10 straight Falcon misses. The run upped to 13-0 when Johnson made a hesitation move along the right of the paint and scored at the rim.  Bowling Green ended the run with a quick bucket before Liddell found the bottom of the cords elevating mid-paint and fading away for two. The Falcons cut into the lead with a triple but Ahrens answered for Ohio State with a triple of his own, Another BG bucket preceded another Young jump hook as points were coming fast and furious.  BG scored again before Wheeler’s penetration and dish to Key for a dunk answered. Young went baseline for a reverse lay-in and at the final media timeout of the half, Ohio State led 35-13. Young found Branham cutting backdoor for a lay-in and Ohio State bumped the lead to 24. Branham scored again, drilling a jumper just above the free throw line and the Buckeyes were on a 8-0 run. A Key dunk bumped the run to 10-0 before a Falcon triple ended the burst. The Falcons got a runner to drop right before the horn and at the half, Ohio State led comfortably 41-18. The Buckeyes shot 53.1% from the floor in the first half, while holding the Falcons to just 8 of 31, good for 25.8%. Justin Ahrens led Ohio State with 8 first half points to go along with 5 rebounds. E.J. Liddell added 7 and Zed Key had 6 points and 5 rebounds. 

Ahrens opened the second half scoring with a triple and after a BG turnover, Wheeler found Key at the right block for a dunk and Bowling Green wanted to talk about it as the Buckeyes had scored the first five of the half, opening up a 46-18 lead less than a minute into the second half. More Buckeyes as Liddell from the top lobbed to Key for a lay-in and the Buckeyes were running away with it. Following a Buckeye turnover, Bowling Green got on the board for the first time in the half, scoring in transition, but back came the Buckeyes. Liddell drilled a fade away jumper from the stripe and after a Falcon turnover, Johnson got out in transition and scored with the lay up and at the under 16 media timeout, Ohio State led 52-20. Out of the timeout, BG converted an old fashioned three point play, but back came the Buckeyes. Wheeler knifed a pass past three defenders and found Young on the baseline for a dunk. After three turnovers for each team, BG scored at the rim.  Branham scored after grabbing an offensive rebound and putting it back for two and after BG split a pair of freebies, Brown slid behind the 2-3 zone for a dunk.  After a BG turnover, inside out action had Brown getting free on the perimeter and he drilled the three from the right wing.  BG came back with a bucket of their own and at the under 12 media timeout, the Buckeyes led the Falcons 61-28. Joey Brunk split a pair of free throws out of the timeout and after full court pressure turned the Falcons over, Branham got to the line and knocked down both attempts to put Ohio State up 36. A BG triple cut the lead momentarily before Jimmy Sotos drilled a three from the left corner. Back to back Liddell buckets put the Buckeyes up 40 before BG drilled a three. After a BG freebie fell, Key scored with a jump hook in the lane and at the under 8 media timeout, Ohio State was on top 73-35. BG scored at the rim but Ohio State answered when Johnson lobbed to Brown at the block where Brown got it to go. After another BG bucket, back to back Buckeye threes by Johnson and Brown put Ohio State up 44. Bowling Green drilled a three and called timeout with 5:53 remaining and the Buckeyes up big, 81-42 and clearing the bench. Six straight Falcon points forced Chris Holtmann to call timeout with just 3:45 remaining and Ohio State leading 81-48 but with a couple sloppy possessions. Out of the timeout and a Buckeye miss, Jimmy Sotos picked the pocket of a BG player and took it to the other end for a layup and after a BG turnover, Johnson drilled a triple from the left wing. A 5-0 Bowling Green run came to an end when Johnson knocked down another three from the left wing. BG would end the game with a 5-0 run to end the scoring on the night. 

It was a good game for Ohio State for confidence and cohesion in the backcourt especially. They played more connected on defense and they were able to play multiple combinations which will only help getting guys game experience. Despite being without Justice Sueing, the Buckeyes played very aggressive defensively and did a great job sharing the basketball, assisting on 27 of 36 made shots. In regards to defense, Ohio State held Bowling Green’s leading scorer, who came in averaging 16 per game to a goose egg in the scoring column illustrating how well Ohio State played on that end of the floor. Certainly it was an overmatched opponent, but a game the Buckeyes needed at this point in the season and they looked more like the Big Ten title contender most experts are expecting.  The schedule will now ramp up.  After a trip to Xavier as part of the Gavitt Games pitting the Big Ten and Big East, they head to Fort Myers to take on Seton Hall and either Cal or Florida, before coming back home to take on Duke, so we will find out quickly where this team is at the early part of the season. The key right now is to keep improving and slowly start to gel.

The Buckeyes will hit the road for the first time this season, trekking down I 71 to Cincinnati to take on Xavier in the Gavitt Games. Tip time from the Cintas Center is scheduled for 6:30 pm and is airing on FS1. 

-Jason Harris 

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