Ohio State Comes From Behind to Win the Season Opener

Team 125 officially kicked off the 2023-24 season and it wasn’t easy as Ohio State trailed for much of the night, but an 11-0 run in the latter part of the second half put the Buckeyes up for good as the Buckeyes downed the Golden Grizzlies 79-73 en route to the program’s 20th consecutive season opening win. Four Buckeyes hit the double figure mark, led by 17 apiece from Roddy Gayle, Bruce Thornton and Zed Key. Scotty Middleton added 13, while Gayle added 6 rebounds and 5 assists to his impressive stat line. Jack Gohlke led Oakland with 18, all from three, while Trey Townsend added 17 and Blake Lampman chipped in 14. The Buckeyes shot 46% from the floor, 54% in the second half, while Oakland shot 39% from the floor, including 14 threes which neutralized the Buckeye athletic advantage. The Buckeyes won the battle on the glass 42-30, including a 13-11 advantage on the offensive glass, with many of Oakland’s offensive boards coming in the final minutes.

The Golden Grizzlies jumped out to the early lead with a pair of triples before the Buckeyes got into the scoring column when Felix Okpara dropped in a half hook from the right block. Ohio State got to within a point when Okpara caught a pass on the left block and found Jamison Battle on the right point for three. 5 straight Golden Grizzly points gave Oakland a 11-5 lead at the first media break. Out of the timeout, Scotty Middleton caught an inbounds pass and scored off the window, but Oakland answered with another triple. Battle drilled a three of his own from the right corner to cut into the Grizzly lead but another bucket by Oakland answered once again. Middleton grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on the putback but back came Oakland, banking in an awkward jumper from the right wing. Middleton grabbed a steal on the ensuing possession and Zed Key finished with a dunk in transition and at the under 12 media timeout, Oakland led 19-14. A pair of Oakland free throws followed by a pair of Roddy Gayle freebies kept the deficit at 5. The Buckeyes got a little closer when Gayle lobbed to Okpara for dunks on a pair of possessions, but Oakland drilled yet another triple and at the under 8 media break, the Golden Grizzlies clung to a 24-20 lead. Out of the break, Gayle split a pair of free throws and after another Oakland three dropped, the Buckeyes found themselves down 6. Battle took matters into his own hands, getting to the right block and knocking down the short jumper while getting hit and the ensuing freebie fell to complete the old-fashioned three point play. A pair of Golden Grizzly free throws followed by a pair by Bruce Thornton  and at the final media timeout of the half, Oakland led Ohio State 29-26. Oakland banged down a pair of free throws out of the break, but a 5-0 Buckeye run knotted the score. An Oakland bucket broke the tie, but Thornton drilled a three to answer to give Ohio State their first lead. The lead was short lived as Oakland quickly scored on the other end to regain the lead. Ohio State had an opportunity to take a lead into the half, but failed to get a shot off as time expired sending the teams to the locker rooms with Oakland holding a 35-34 lead. The Golden Grizzlies hit 6 of their 12 three point attempts, while shooting 44% overall from the field and despite being outrebounded by Ohio State 21-14, 10-4 on the offensive end, held the halftime lead. The Buckeyes shot just 39% from the floor overall, including 3 of 15 from beyond the arc. Trey Townsend led Oakland with 11 first half points while the Buckeyes were led by Jamison Battle’s 9. 

Oakland kicked off the scoring in the second half, increasing their lead to three and after a Gayle bucket in transition, another Grizzly triple dropped to increase the lead to 4. Thornton found Key at the rim for two, but another Oakland bucket answered and at the first media timeout of the second half, Oakland maintained a 42-38 lead. Ohio State trimmed the lead to 1 when Gayle found Middleton in the left corner for three, but Oakland answered with a deuce. Another Middleton triple from the left corner tied the game with 13 minutes to play. Oakland broke the tie with a three of their own and after an Ohio State turnover, another Grizzly triple increased their lead to 6. Thornton knocked down a three of his own from the left wing and Oakland called timeout leading 50-47 with 11:10 left on the clock. Out of the timeout, Oakland scored in the paint, but a Gayle floater trimmed the deficit back to 3. Another Gayle bucket mid-paint cut the lead to 1 and after Thornton picked off an Oakland pass and fed Gayle for a dunk in transition, Ohio State went back ahead. Another bucket by Gayle, banking in a runner in the paint while being fouled sent the teams to their respective benches for the under 8 media timeout with the Buckeyes now on the plus side of the scoreboard, leading Oakland 55-52. Breaking the timeout, Gayle went to the stripe and promptly dropped in the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three point play. A pair of free throws by Key extended the Buckeye lead to 6. A pair of Oakland free throws stopped the 11-0 Buckeye run and cut the Buckeye lead to 4. Dale Bonner put the ball on the deck and got into the paint and fed Key for a dunk. After a wild, deep Oakland three dropped, Gayle hit a runner to put Ohio State up 5. Another Grizzly triple was followed by Key, who caught the ball on the right block and spun to the rim for a dunk and a foul put him on the stripe where he nailed the freebie for the old-fashioned three point play. After a pair of Key free throws, Oakland scored on an offensive rebound and put back. Key picked up his fourth foul just before the under 4 media timeout that would send Oakland to the stripe with Ohio State leading 67-63 and 3:39 to play. One of the two free throws fell, cutting Ohio State’s lead to 3. Gayle split a pair of free throws before Oakland buried another three cutting the lead to just 1. Thornton knocked down a corner three after a feed by Gayle and Ohio State called a timeout with 2:02 to play, leading 71-67. After a defensive stop, Thornton bagged a pair of free throws increasing the lead to 6. Another stop and 1 of 2 free throws by Key bumped the lead to 7, but a quick Oakland three cut the lead back to 4 and the Golden Grizzlies took a timeout with 33 seconds to play. A quick foul in the backcourt put Thornton on the stripe where he buried both. Yet another Oakland 3, cut Ohio State’s lead to just three with 22 seconds to play. Middleton got fouled in the forecourt and split the pair and a defensive stop and two more Middleton free throws ended the scoring as Ohio State escaped with the win. 

It wasn’t pretty and the great equalizer in college basketball, the three point line, kept Oakland in the game and with the lead for much of the first ¾ of the basketball game, but Ohio State found some rhythm attacking the rim with Roddy Gayle and Zed Key to grab a lead with 8 ½ to play and fought off every Oakland answer thereafter to get the win. Bruce Thornton did most of his damage from the stripe but hit a couple big threes late in the game, while Scotty Middleton made his Buckeye debut with a solid outing as well. Gayle filled the stat sheet with 17, 6 and 5, and was the go to guy when Ohio State went on the decisive run, while Key took advantage of his size and quickness to score at the rim on several possessions to help Ohio State fend off upset minded Oakland. Gayle, Thornton and Key scored 32 straight for Ohio State in the second half which provided the difference in the ballgame. A win is a win though and the Buckeyes will take it. They will need to be much better on Friday night and need to get more from a guy like Jamison Battle, who scored 9 first half points, but went scoreless in the second half and they will need him to look for his shot much more moving forward if they want to reach the goals that this team has set for themselves. The biggest non-conference game of the season is next as the Texas A&M Aggies come to town sporting a lofty 15th ranking in the AP poll. Until then, Ohio State will enjoy being 1-0 and get back to work in preparation for that one.

The Buckeyes will be back at home on Friday night for a 7PM tip, hosting 15th ranked Texas A&M at the Schott. The game will be broadcast on Peacock. 

-Jason Harris

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