Buckeyes Bounce Back, Blast Cincinnati in Maui

Ohio State and Cincinnati, schools that are separated by just over 100 miles traveled 5 time zones to play each other in Maui with Ohio State prevailing 81-53 to move to 4-1 on the season. In just the fifth game between the schools since the 1962 National Championship game, Ohio State won just as they had done in the previous 4, taking control late in the first half and piled on early in the 2nd to move to 1-1 in the Maui Classic. The loss dropped Cincinnati to 3-3 overall and 0-2 in the Classic. Zed Key led Ohio State with 19 points and 8 rebounds, while Bruce Thornton scored 15 of his 17 in the second half. Brice Sensabaugh also added 17 and Justice Sueing chipped in 11 and 6 rebounds. Ohio State shot 47% from the floor, while holding Cincinnati to just 38%, making 6 of 20 from three and the Bearcats hit 4 of 18 out there. Cincinnati will move on in the Maui Classic to face Louisville tomorrow while Ohio State will face 21st ranked Texas Tech.

A quick start for the Bearcats who jumped out to an 8-2 lead less than 2 minutes into the game fueled by a pair of triples. The Buckeyes answered, tying the score just a few minutes later and after Justice Sueing split a pair of free throws, Ohio State claimed their first lead. The Buckeye run moved to 9-0 before UC finally got back on the board with a mid range jumper. The Buckeyes were all over the offensive boards early, 6 of them, and it paid dividends as Zed Key grabbed an offensive rebound and fed Sueing for a jam forcing the Bearcats to call timeout with Ohio State on top 13-10. Key and Sueing had scored all 13 points in the first 5 minutes, with Key scoring 8 and Sueing adding 7 to help Ohio State take the early lead. A 6-2 Cincinnati run gave the ‘Cats a 1 point lead entering the under 12 media timeout, with the lone Ohio State bucket coming on a Tanner Holden 10 foot baseline fade away. The Buckeyes regained the lead when Bruce Thornton buried a jumper from just above the free throws stripe and extended the lead when Key followed a Ice Likekele miss with a put back to put the Buckeyes up three. A pair of UC free throws preceded a Sueing leaner off the window from the right block and getting away with a travel, UC scored from short range just before the under 8 timeout and at the timeout, Ohio State clung to a 21-20 lead. Out of the timeout and with the shot clock expiring, Sean McNeil drilled a triple from the top and after a UC bucket, more McNeil, this time from 17 to put the Buckeyes up 4. After a Bearcat bucket, Brice Sensabaugh entered the scoring column, hitting a turn around 10 footer on the left baseline and after solid halfcourt defense forcing a UC shot clock violation, Sueing drew a foul at the right block going up for a score and at the final media timeout, Ohio State was on top 28-24 and Sueing due to go to the line. Sueing buried both free throws putting the Buckeyes up six with just under 4 minutes to play in the first half. Following a Bearcat turnover, Sensabaugh utilized a friendly roll, knocking down a triple from the right point. Ohio State’s run moved to 11-0 when Key scored from the right block and ended when the Bearcats ended their 4 minute plus drought with a free throw to cut the lead to 10. The Cats cut the lead to 8, snapping a 6 minute drought without a field goal after a pair of offensive rebounds created extra opportunities. Out of the timeout, Ohio State had the last possession and at the horn, Sensabaugh splashed down a three from the left point and at the half, Ohio State led Cincinnati 38-27. The Buckeyes utilized a 12-3 run in the final 6:09 to take the commanding lead into the locker room. Zed Key led all scorers with 12, while Justice Sueing added 9 and Brice Sensabaugh 8 in the first 20 minutes. The Buckeyes shot 46% in the first half including 3 of 11 from beyond the arc, while defensively Ohio State held UC to 38% shooting and  2 of 7 from deep. The Buckeyes controlled the glass in the first half, out rebounding the Bearcats 23-15, including 12 of the offensive variety.

All Ohio State in the first 4 plus minutes of the second half, out scoring the Bearcats 6-1 to open up a 16 point lead at the first media timeout of the second half with the Buckeyes on an 18-4 run dating back to the 6 minute mark of the first half. The Buckeye run continued out of the timeout as Likekele took an offensive rebound and kicked to Thornton on the left wing for 3 to put Ohio State up 19. The Buckeye lead exploded to 22 as Ohio State kept pouring it on. UC got a bucket to drop to cut it to 17, but back came Ohio State. After Key split a pair of free throws, Thornton knocked down a jumper as he was hit and made the free throw to put the Buckeyes up 21. After another Bearcat bucket, Sensabaugh buried a triple from the left corner. The teams alternated buckets the next couple trips but after a Sensabaugh jumper from the left elbow fell, UC called timeout with 11:19 left to play and Ohio State leading 58-36. After a Bearcat bucket, Roddy Gayle lobbed to Felix Okpara for two and after a flopping technical on the next possession charged to Sensabaugh, the required media break hit with 10:08 to play and the Buckeyes maintaining a 22 point lead. The technical free throw dropped after the timeout, but after a Cincinnati turnover, Thornton banked in a three from the top to put the Buckeyes up 24. After a Cincinnati triple, another flop technical got called on Ohio State. This time on Gayle and UC buried the free throw to cut the lead to 20. Following a pair of Sensabaugh free throws, another UC triple trimmed the lead to 19. The Buckeyes got a little out of control in the half court on a couple possessions in a row which got the attention of Chris Holtmann, who called timeout to settle things down with just under 7 minutes to play. After a pair of Key free throws fell, Cincinnati completed an old-fashioned three point play to cut the lead to 18. Four straight by Ohio State, a Sueing baseline J and a Thornton bucket off the window, bumped the lead back to 22 and after a UC bucket, the final media break followed a Bearcat foul with Ohio State firmly in control, leading 71-51. Out of the timeout, Gayle bagged a pair of free throws and after a Bearcat hoop, Holden hit a jumper along the right baseline to answer. After a ‘Cat turnover, Thornton buried a pair of free throws to put Ohio State up 24. The lead extended on a rebound and put back by Okpara and on the next possession, Kalen Etzler scored his first collegiate points with a rebound and put back and that completed the scoring in the Buckeye victory. 

The Buckeyes needed a performance like they got in this game. It started on the defensive end.  They made everything the Bearcats wanted to do in the halfcourt very difficult. In addition to the half court defense, Ohio State forced 14 turnovers, while only turning it over 6 themselves, out scoring Cincinnati 24 – 4 off of those turnovers. The Buckeyes also controlled the glass, out rebounding the Bearcats 42-29, and 19 of those rebounds were on the offensive end. Ohio State is just looking more impressive by the game.  Despite the loss last night, they did some good things and learned a little about themselves and took the lessons learned in that game and applied them in this game. It was clearly a lesser opponent but they did what they had to do.  Tomorrow will be a different animal as they face a defensive minded Texas Tech team that will test this Buckeye team in a similar fashion as San Diego State did. It will be a quick turn around but it is also a tremendous opportunity for Ohio State to add to a NCAA tournament resume if they are able to get a win. 

Ohio State will play one more in Maui, taking on #21 Texas Tech in the finale.  Tip time for that one is scheduled for 2:30 PM EST and airing on ESPN2.

-Jason Harris

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