Ohio State Pulls Away, Downs Eastern Illinois

Despite a poor offensive night, Ohio State opened the game up early in the second half and pulled away, defeating visiting Eastern Illinois 65-43 to move to 3-0. The loss dropped the Panthers to 0-4. The Buckeyes fought through a poor shooting night, hitting just 40% of their shot attempts, including just 8 of 28 from long range, to get the win. Playing against the lowest ranked opponent of the season, Ohio State really struggled to find rhythm.  In addition to the poor shooting, Ohio State did not value the basketball very well at all, turning it over a whopping 17 times, while forcing 13. In addition to the poor shooting from the floor, they also struggled at the stripe, hitting just 11 of 18, including several front ends. Despite all of that, Ohio State did what it had to do and came away with the win and as they say, the best thing about going 3-0 is the chance to go 4-0. Brice Sensabaugh led Ohio State with 20 off the bench, while Zed Key, in his third straight double-double, added 10 points and 14 rebounds. 

It was a slow start to the ballgame for Ohio State, missing 5 of their first 6 shot attempts and turning it over twice in the first 5 minutes, however, at the first media break they still led 4-0 thanks to the Panthers ice cold shooting, missing all 7 of their shot attempts. Zed Key’s triple and one of two from the stripe being the only points in the early going. The cold Buckeye shooting continued out of the break and Eastern Illinois finally got on the board, scoring in transition to cut the lead to just 2, before a Roddy Gayle triple from the right point got the Buckeyes back on the board. The Panthers answered with a three from the deep right corner. Tanner Holden split a pair of free throws and after a Panther turnover, an offensive rebound and kick out by Key led to a Brice Sensabaugh three and at the under 12 break, Ohio State led 11-5. All Buckeyes out of the timeout. Sensabaugh backed in on the right and hit a turn around off the window and after a second chance opportunity, Sensabaugh hit a short jumper just inside the stripe. After another Panther miss, Ice Likekele found Tanner Holden in the right corner for 3 and Eastern Illinois wanted to talk about it with Ohio State now leading 18-5. Out of the timeout, one and done for the Panthers once again and Sensabaugh yet again found the bottom with a three as Ohio State had outscored the Panthers 11-0 in the last couple minutes. The Panthers answered the Ohio State run with a 5-0 run of their own and at the under 8 timeout, Ohio State led 21-10. The Panther run increased to 10-0 out of the timeout as a pair of Buckeye turnovers keyed 5 more Panther points to cut the lead to just 6. Ohio State stopped the run when Key spun along the baseline, got by his defender and flushed it home for two. The Panthers scored on the ensuing possession, getting to the rim off the dribble drive and at the final media break of the half, Ohio State led 23-17. Out of the timeout, the Panthers split a pair of free throws to trim the lead to 5 and after a pair of Buckeye empty possessions, the Panthers got another jumper to fall to get within just 3 and Chris Holtmann called a timeout as the Buckeyes had just scored 3 points in the last 7 minutes. Out of the timeout, Sensabaugh drilled a three from the left wing and mercifully the half ended with Ohio State leading 26-20. It was an ugly half for both teams shooting the basketball. Ohio State shot just 31% from the floor, hitting 6 of 18 from deep, while the Panthers shot just 25.8%, including 3 of 13 beyond the arc. Ohio State outrebounded the Panthers 25-21, but 6 turnovers to just 7 assists is not a ratio that is conducive to winning basketball. Brice Sensabaugh was the lone player on either team reaching double figures in the first half, scoring 13, while Zed Key added 6 points and 6 rebounds, but missed 2 of his 3 free throw attempts. 

The first three points of the second half were scored by Eastern Illinois to cut the lead to 3. Then, the Buckeyes got going, Sean McNeil found Zed Key with post position in the middle of the lane for a deuce. On the next possession, Bruce Thornton tickled the twine for three from the left wing and Ohio State led by 8. Justice Sueing got on the board for the first time, taking it off the bounce and scoring off the window, left of the rim and at the under 16 media timeout, Ohio State had extended the lead, now up 33-23. More Ohio State coming out of the timeout as Likekele got to the rim for his first two. After a Panther bucket off dribble penetration that led to a wide open dunk, Sueing buried a pair of free throws to put Ohio State back ahead by 12. The lead increased as Sensabaugh pump faked in the left corner, got the defender off his feet and drove to the rim for a thunderous dunk. After a Panther miss, Key tipped in a Sensabaugh missed jumper and Eastern Illinois took a timeout with Ohio State pulling away, leading 41-25 and 12:43 remaining in the game. The first possession out of the timeout, Ohio State did a great job for 25 seconds, but an open triple dropped to cut into the lead. Sensabaugh split a pair of free throws on the other end and after a Panther miss, Gayle found Holden curling to the rim and Holden scored off the window while being fouled and completed the three point play, knocking down the free throw to increase the lead to 17. After a EIU bucket, three Sensabaugh free throws and one from Holden and at the under 8 media timeout, Ohio State led 50-30. The Panthers cut into the lead briefly after splitting a pair of free throws, but Gayle got one to fall off the square and after an EIU miss, Thornton played P&D, finding Gayle on the right wing for three and the Buckeyes had opened it up, leading by 24. Eastern Illinois got a free throw to fall, but back came Ohio State. Sueing penetrated and fed Felix Okpara with a wraparound pass for a dunk. EIU answered with a 9-2 run with Ohio State’s bucket coming when Sueing scored on a turnaround short jumper in the lane. Thornton got to the rim for two and on the next possession, Thornton found Likekele at the block with a nifty bounce pass for a score and at the final media timeout, Ohio State was ahead 63-41. Out of the timeout, Holden curled in the lane and found Okpara for a dunk. EIU buried a pair of free throws to complete the scoring and the Ohio State victory. 

This was a game that was all about Ohio State.  The first half was ugly in the half court on the offensive end.  They didn’t do a very good job of ball reversals, getting the ball stuck at times on one side of the floor and they ended up settling for contested jump shots and those jumpers just weren’t falling. Defensively, Ohio State forced Eastern Illinois into a lot of contested jumpers, and limited second shot opportunities, but they weren’t very good picking up in transition and did not get out in transition off of misses as they had done in the first two games. The Buckeyes were a little better getting the ball down the floor in the second half and despite still not shooting it all that well, they were able to create easier scoring opportunities by getting out in transition and driving to the basket much more, which allowed them to pull away. While there is definitely youth on this basketball team, and the turnover numbers are a direct result of the youth, there is a lot of talent and ups and downs through the course of a game and especially in the early season is to be expected. However, as bad as they shot it, they did not let it affect them on the defensive end, holding EIU to just 25% from the floor and controlling the glass, winning that battle 52-37 for the game. 

So, that will do it for the appetizer portion of the schedule. Now we’ll find out how good this basketball team really is.  They could potentially face 2 or 3 ranked teams in the Maui Classic and then back home for a week off before a trip to Durham, NC to face Duke.  Not only will they have an opportunity to build a resume of quad 1 wins, they will also find out where they stack up with some of the best teams in America. If they can string together some W’s, they can begin to build a strong resume when Selection Sunday rolls around in early March.

On a side note, we could not conclude this article without mentioning the sudden passing of former Buckeye captain Jamaal Brown, who suited up for Ohio State from 1988-92.  Our condolences to the Brown and the entire Buckeye Basketball family. Our thoughts and prayers are with you in this very difficult time. 

Next up for Ohio State is a trip to Hawaii for the Maui Classic. They will tip it up in their first round game against 17th ranked San Diego State at 9pm and airing on ESPN2.

-Jason Harris

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