Johnson’s Late Three Keys Upset of #21 Seton Hall

Meechie Johnson drilled a long three from the top of the key with 2.3 seconds left after Seton Hall had tied the score to give Ohio State a 79-76 upset win over 21st ranked Seton Hall in the semi finals of the Fort Myers tip off. With the win, Ohio State moves to 4-1 on the young season, giving Seton Hall their first loss in four tries. E.J. Liddell led the Buckeyes with 28, while Justin Ahrens nailed 5 triples en route to a 17 point day. Kyle Young added 12 points and 8 rebounds, while Seton Hall’s Jared Rhoden led all scorers with 29 in the loss. 

It was a very well played game on both sides early as the scoring went back and forth.  Seton Hall opened the scoring with a deuce, but Justin Ahrens bagged a triple from the left corner to put Ohio State ahead. Seton Hall regained the lead for a moment before Malaki Branham drilled a 15 footer from the right wing. The Pirates hit a triple to go back in front but E.J. Liddell used a Joey Brunk screen to knock down a 16 footer just above the free throw line. Hall went ahead a point when they split a pair of free throws and Ohio State went up two when Liddell hit a step back triple from the top. Three straight Seton Hall points put the Pirates back ahead. Liddell took a pass from Branham deep in the paint and scored to tie the score but Seton Hall drilled a three to go up three. Zed Key scored with a mid-paint hook and at the first media timeout, Seton Hall led Ohio State 15-14. Out of the timeout, Ahrens drilled another triple to put Ohio State up for a moment, but Seton Hall answered, scoring the next five to go up 3. A Key bucket, spinning at the block and scoring at the rim cut the deficit to one and at the under 12 media timeout, Seton Hall still led by a point. A pair of free throws and a steal and score in transition put Seton Hall up five and as Meechie Johnson hit a three, the lights went out and the shot was waved off and the Pirates were up 24-19 as the game was delayed due to the outage with 8:59 left in the half. After an approximately five minute delay, Five straight Liddell points, capped by a long triple from the  top tied the score. Out of the under 8 timeout, Kyle Young knocked down a pair of free throws putting Ohio State ahead and another pair dropped by Liddell and Ohio State went up four and was on a 9-0 run. Seton Hall ended the run with a tip in cutting the lead to two but the Buckeyes answered after a Pirate turnover turned into a transition three from Ahrens from the right wing. Two Ahrens free throws increased the Buckeye lead to 7. The Pirates got back on the board with a two to cut the lead to five, but two Young free throws fell after he was fouled attempting a tip dunk. The Buckeyes kept coming as Branham put the ball on the deck and got into the lane and kicked to Jimmy Sotos on the left wing for three and Seton Hall called timeout with 2:57 to go in the half and Ohio State leading the Pirates 38-28 and Ohio State on a 19-4 run. An old fashioned three point play out of the timeout by Seton Hall cut the lead to 7 but Key found a cutting Liddell who scored at the rim to put the Buckeyes back up 9. Four straight Seton Hall points finished the half as the teams hit the locker room with Ohio State on top 40-35, despite not scoring in the final 2:26. E.J. Liddell led Ohio State with 16 and Justin Ahrens added 11 as Ohio State hit on 50% of their shot attempts including 6 of 12 from deep. The Buckeye defense was on display in the first half, holding the Pirates scoreless for a nearly 4 minute stretch, building a 10 point lead and forcing Seton Hall into just 39.4% shooting and just 3 of 12 from beyond the arc.

Ahrens drilled a triple from the right wing to open the second half scoring and in transition, Wheeler found Liddell for a dunk and the Buckeyes were back up 10. The Pirates cut the lead to 7, hitting three free throws on two separate trips to the stripe, but a pair of Liddell freebies increased the lead back to 9. A long Pirate triple after a blocked shot trimmed the lead to 6, but good interior passing led to another Buckeye hoop as Young found Key for a dunk. Following a Seton Hall miss, a pick and pop with Wheeler and Young led to Young drilling a three from the right point and the Pirates called a timeout with 15:07 left in the game and Ohio State leading 52-41. A Seton Hall bucket cut the lead to 9 but the Buckeyes answered as a Kyle Young bucket left of the rim beat the shot clock putting Ohio State back up 11. Four straight Seton Hall points after offensive rebounds cut the lead to 7, but a Meechie Johnson triple from the left wing fell and Chris Holtmann called a quick timeout with 12:16 to go in the game and Ohio State leading Seton Hall 59-49. The lead increased to 12 after a pair of Johnson free throws dropped through the ropes. Four straight Pirate points cut the lead to 8, but a pair of Liddell free throws went down to put the Buckeyes back up 10. Six straight Seton Hall points cut the lead to four and as Liddell was apparently fouled and no call, continuing a string of poor calls, Chris Holtmann drew a technical foul, and had to be restrained by his assistants, as the teams entered the under 8 media timeout with Ohio State clinging to a 63-59 lead. The Pirates buried both to get within two and on an 8-0 run. Ahrens drilled a triple from the left wing ending the run and stopping a nearly 5 minute Buckeye streak without a field goal and putting Ohio State back up five. A Seton Hall dunk cut the lead to three but a short Sotos jumper fell to answer. After a Pirate hoop at the rim, a pair of Young free throws dropped and Ohio State maintained their five point advantage. After a Wheeler steal, Liddell caught the ball on the block and was fouled attempting a shot sending the teams to the benches for the final media timeout of the half with Ohio State leading 70-65 and Liddell due to go to the stripe and 3:48 showing on the game clock. Liddell knocked down both attempts to put the Buckeyes up 7. Five quick Seton Hall points cut the lead to two, but a big offensive rebound by Young kept the possession alive and Young was fouled going back up for the put back.  Young split the pair and on the rebound Seton Hall was fouled, collecting the board. Both free throws dropped and the lead was just one with 2:22 left in the game. Liddell got to the rim and was fouled, sending E.J. to the stripe for two and he made the both to put the Buckeyes up 3. After a Seton Hall miss, Sotos was fouled going for the rebound and Jimmy split the pair putting Ohio State up two possessions. Two Hall free throws cut the Buckeye lead to two with 1:27 to play. Liddell’s fade away rattled in and out and the ball trickled out of bounds off of Young. Seton Hall called timeout with 50 seconds remaining, trailing Ohio State 76-74. On the inbounds pass, poor court awareness by Seton Hall led to a backcourt violation, turning the ball over to Ohio State, but Ohio State turned it back over and Hall scored on a lay up in transition to tie the game with 16 seconds to go. Then, the dramatics. Johnson took the inbounds pass and slowly dribbled the ball up the floor and calmly drilled a long three from the top of the key to put Ohio State ahead 79-76 with 2.3 seconds to go and after a couple timeouts, Seton Hall’s desperation one handed three attempt hit the board as Ohio State came away with the win. 

The Buckeyes played like a different team in this game, connected on both ends, did a great job defensively closing out on the perimeter and just played with an entirely different energy. The defense held Seton Hall to just under 39% shooting and just 5 of 22 from deep. The Buckeyes hit on 48% of their shot attempts, including 11 of 22 from beyond the arc and also knocked down 22 of 25 free throws, keying the win. While the schedule is certainly challenging and playing short handed without Justice Sueing, Eugene Brown and Seth Towns, the youth is beginning to grow up in front of our eyes. They clearly have a bona fide superstar in Liddell, but slowly they are beginning to find their roles and the young backcourt of Johnson and Branham are starting to find their way. There is no doubt about it, this was a huge victory and a quad 1 win that will help that resume come March.  The key is to build on this and continue to improve and weather the storm until they can get fully healthy.

Ohio State will play again in Fort Myers on Wednesday night at 8:30 pm in the championship game of the Fort Myers classic against the winner of Florida and Cal.  The game will air on FS1. 

-Jason Harris 

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