Ohio State Fends Off Pesky Towson to Win Third Straight
The 21st ranked Ohio State fell behind by as many as 7 late in the first half, but came storming back to take control to defeat Towson 85-74 in the Schott. Kyle Young led the Buckeyes in scoring for the second straight game, coming off the bench to score a career high tying 18 to lead four Buckeyes in double figures. Justin Ahrens hit 5 triples, scoring 16, while E.J. Liddell added 15 points and 7 rebounds and Zed Key chipped in 13 and 9 rebounds. A game that featured 7 lead changes, primarily in the first half, the Buckeyes found a way to win to move to 7-2 on the season, while Towson dropped to 6-4. The Buckeyes were efficient from the floor, hitting 57.4% from the field, hitting 10 of their 23 attempts from beyond the arc, while winning the rebounding margin 31-21 as Ohio State turned up their effort in the second half. Towson kept it somewhat close, hitting 12 threes on the night in 28 attempts.
Ohio State got on the board first when Zed Key’s jump hook mid lane dropped. A Towson triple gave the Tigers a brief lead before Ohio State ripped off 10 straight, 5 from E.J. Liddell and capped by a Justin Ahrens triple from the right corner, to take a 12-3 lead into the first media timeout. Five straight Tiger points trimmed the lead 4, but a Kyle Young triple ended the mini run and put the Buckeyes back up 7. A Towson bucket and an Ohio State turnover led to a transition dunk and Towson closed to within 3. Liddell hit a fade away jumper from the right baseline to increase the lead to five but after being fouled attempting a three, the Tigers hit all 3 free throws to cut the lead to just 2. After Ohio State missed a three attempt, the Tigers drilled theirs and went back out in front by a point. Another Tiger triple dropped and Chris Holtmann called a timeout as Towson was out in front 21-17 and on an 18-5 run, including 9 straight. Another Towson deuce put the Tigers up 6, but Liddell fed Young under the bucket for two breaking a four minute scoreless streak and got Ohio State back within four. After a Towson turnover, a pick and roll had Jamari Wheeler feeding Zed Key for a dunk and at the under 8 media timeout, Towson led 23-21. Five straight Tiger points increased the lead to 7 before Gene Brown, after missing four games with a concussion, entered and immediately buried a three from the right wing to cut the lead back to four. The Buckeyes cut the lead to two when Meechie Johnson took a defensive rebound and went coast to coast for two. Towson answered with a bucket on the other end, but heading into the final media timeout, Liddell was fouled attempting a short jumper and with 2:19 to go in the first half, Towson held a 30-26 lead. Liddell bagged both freebies to get Ohio State to within two and the Buckeyes got even when Key hit a jump hook from the left baseline. A Key free throw put Ohio State back in front by a point but the lead was short lived as a pair of Tiger free throws put Towson back ahead and broke a 10-2 Ohio State run. A Key 15 footer from the right wing in the closing seconds dropped and put Ohio State ahead as the first 20 minutes came to a close with the Buckeyes on top 33-32. The Buckeyes shot the ball very well in the first half, dominating the paint and hitting 56.5% of their shot attempts, while holding Towson to just 39.3%. Zed Key led all scorers with 11, while E.J. Liddell scored 9 first half points, but the Buckeyes lacked energy at both ends outside of the first four minutes and the Tigers took advantage making it a ballgame after 20 minutes.
The Buckeyes struck first in the second half as Malaki Branham buried a pair of free throws. A tip dunk by Towson drew the Tigers within one but Wheeler scored on a put back and Ohio State was back up three. Then a three point contest broke out. Towson drilled a three to tie it, but Ahrens answered for three from the left wing. Another Towson triple was followed by a Branham three, but an old-fashioned three point play by the Tigers tied the score once again and at the first media timeout the game was tied at 43. The Buckeyes went back in front when Branham followed his own miss and scored off the glass and after a Towson turnover, Branham penetrated into the paint and while falling down, kicked to Young who nailed a three from the right wing and the Tigers took a timeout with Ohio State now in front 48-43. The lead went to 7 when Young pivoted and scored just above the left block and a technical foul for a flop was called and Young made the free throw putting the Buckeyes up 8. Towson got back on the board with a short jumper off the glass, breaking an 8-0 Buckeye run. Wheeler scored in front of the rim with a nifty up and under move to put Ohio State right back up 8 and the lead went to 10 when Wheeler used a hesitation move to get to the rim for a score and the Tigers took timeout with Ohio State up 55-45, having outscored Towson 12-2 over the last 4 plus minutes. A pair of Towson free throws trimmed the lead to 8 after a Buckeye turnover led to a breakout, but Young converted an old-fashioned three point play to put the Buckeyes up 11. A pair of Wheeler free throws increased Ohio State’s lead to 13, but a Towson bucket off an inbounds play under the bucket trimmed the lead back to 11. A pair of Liddell free throws followed by one Towson free throw had the Buckeyes up 12. After a Buckeye turnover, a Towson triple cut the lead to 9 but another two Liddell free throws put Ohio State up 11. A Towson dunk, getting behind the Buckeye defense, cut the lead back to 9 and at the under 8, Ohio State led 64-55. A pair of Key free throws and an Ahrens triple from the left wing put the Buckeyes up 14, but a pair of Towson free throws cut the lead back to 12. The Buckeyes, facing a full court press, got the ball quickly into the front court as Jimmy Sotos found Ahrens in front of the Buckeye bench and he drilled a triple while being fouled and Ahrens made the free throw putting Ohio State up 16. Towson wasn’t going away, after a three dropped and a Buckeye turnover turned into an old fashioned three point play, the Tigers had scored six straight and pulled to within 10. Ahrens ended that run with yet another three from the left wing to put Ohio State up 13 and the lead went to 15 when Young scored off the window. Another Towson three cut the lead to 12 and after a Buckeye turnover Towson stroked yet another three and Chris Holtmann called timeout with 3:48 left in the game and Ohio State on top 78-69. A pair of Liddell free throws put the Buckeyes up 11, but two Towson freebies cut the lead right back to nine. Young split a pair of free throws and a put back by Branham put Ohio State up 12. Towson tried to keep it close, drilling a three to cut it to 9 but with less than a minute to play. Young split a pair of free throws and Johnson did the same to put Ohio State up 11 to finish the scoring in the Buckeye win.
It was just one of those games. Playing before a sparse crowd, the players had to create their own energy and against a motivated, hungry and veteran mid-major team, you have to be ready to play. The Buckeyes came out strong in the first four minutes, but seemed to lull for much of the remainder of the first half and Towson was able to build a 7 point lead before Ohio State finally got back into a rhythm, finishing the first half on a 12-4 run to take a lead and an early 17-4 run in the second half gave the Buckeyes some breathing room. But every time Ohio State tried to run away with it, the Tigers seemingly hit a string of three’s to keep it within striking distance, which can be a great equalizer in college basketball when there is a talent difference and this game was no different as it took on the feel of a first round NCAA tournament game. But like a NCAA tournament game, the goal is to survive and advance and that’s what Ohio State did on this night and it’s back to work to get ready for two big ones upcoming.
Ohio State will go right back into conference play, welcoming 22nd ranked Wisconsin to the Schott on Saturday. That game is scheduled for a high noon tip and airing on BTN.